Innovation in healthcare – intelligent infection control
Over the past decade there has been an increased focus on the potential infection dangers associated with water supply and hospital fittings across the world, including in Australia.
In particular there has been heightened awareness of the presence of Pseudomonas aeruginosa that has been found on taps, which is further exacerbated by devices fitted to the tap outlet, such as flow straighteners.
There has also been concern over the danger of legionella bacteria coming from the incoming water supply where there is a failure of the recommended control measures; e.g. maintenance of temperatures.
Publications from governments in the UK, Germany and now Australia have provided potential solutions to reducing risk, including ensuring hot water (55 to 60 degrees Celsius) is circulated throughout the building, the removal, cleaning or replacement of flow straighteners and aerators, the design of taps that can be readily dismantled for disinfection, and risk assessments in critical care areas to assess the need for specialist clinical filters on the ends of taps and showers.
Associate Professor Rhonda Stuart, medical director of infection control at Monash Health, says infection control is becoming more and more important as antibiotic resistant organisms become an increasing problem in hospitals.
“The hospital’s job is to limit the development and spread of organisms in hospitals, not just resistant organisms, but any infection that can be spread from person to person. For example, people who might come into hospital with gastroenteritis to surgical site infections, to tuberculosis. Infection control is a large part of keeping people safe in hospital,” says Stuart.
“There’s a whole standard the Quality and Safety Commission has put out that encompasses hand hygiene, use of antibiotics, equipment and hygiene. It’s a huge part of hospital life.”
Clearly, reducing the risks of infection is complicated and will vary according to individual circumstances and local conditions – there is not one solution that will solve the problem.
“The hospital’s job is to limit the development and spread of organisms in hospitals, not just resistant organisms, but any infection that can be spread from person to person
Leading manufacturer of hospital fittings, Armitage Shanks, which recently launched in Australia, continually follows current thinking and the latest research, and takes advice from leading experts in the field (infection control specialists, microbiologists, doctors, nurses and hospital engineers) to understand how they can provide toilet suites, washbasins, taps and mixers that best suit individual infection control regimes.
Consequently, Armitage Shanks has seen its Portman21 and Markwik21 ranges radically change three times over the past eight years, as the company evolves to complement current thinking and provide innovative solutions.
Jonathan Waggott, Armitage Shanks’ marketing manager, says, “Our place is to listen to experts’ recommendations, follow the latest thinking and provide a product range that can be as flexible as possible to suit different hygiene regimes.”
Armitage Shanks has more recently introduced a number of new features that address the latest concerns. To meet the danger of bacteria build-up around the tap spout it has removed the flow straightener altogether and developed a patented antimicrobial copper lined outlet called BioGuard, which has a smooth interior that avoids biofilm build-up and gives bacteria less opportunity for to colonise.
Markwik21 is now easy to dismantle. The spout and/or the whole body can be quickly removed from the wall – without the need to remove the inlets or plumbing pipework – for disinfection/autoclaving at 85 degrees Celsius.
“We strongly advocate the use of thermostats wherever possible in line with many government and hospital guidelines. Markwik21 fittings come with TMV3 thermostats that are integrated into the tap as close as possible to the outlet at point of use. This reduces the risk of warm water in the pipes leading to increased bacteria build-up while ensuring that every fitting is safe to use,” says Waggott.
“As a manufacturer we want to eliminate the danger of scalding and have welcomed the reduction in accidents that have resulted in greater thermostat installation across the world’s hospitals, while ensuring that the hot water temperature is maintained at 55 to 60 degrees Celsius to help prevent bacteria growth.”
Armitage Shanks provides copper inlets and not flexible hoses for its clinical healthcare products that may go into higher-risk clinical areas, such as high dependency wards (HDUs) and intensive care units (ICUs). Copper, rather than flexible hoses, is used due to its natural antimicrobial properties.
The Portman21 range of healthcare sanitary ware also contains unique features that provide safety and help to users and patients. The Portman21 610 and 800 have been designed for easy cleaning and also have a patented rimless flush.
This provides a better flushing action – helping to remove large amounts of solids and liquid efficiently, but will also not harbour visible or hidden limescale, dirt and bacteria, as there is no flushing rim. In fact, this is the third design of a rimless ‘engine’ that Armitage Shanks has invented since launching the world’s first rimless bowl in 1970.
The same design principles are carried over to the rest of Armitage Shank’s range. For example, all Portman21 washbasins are available with right and left hand offset tap holes to help ensure water from the tap does not hit the waste hole in any way – potentially causing a harmful aerosol effect with wastewater becoming airborne and possibly landing on medication carts and patient beds.
The Portman21 accessible basin features a unique integral grab handle to help wheelchair patients pull themselves up to the basin. By using special ergonomic studies, Armitage Shanks has been able to ensure that the seated user will be correctly positioned and not have water landing on their trousers or skirts.
Even the hinged support rails used in disabled areas have many features, such as soft close, anti-finger trap hinges, a wider surface area for grip and an easy-to-clean design to help prevent the spread of bacteria.
“As you can see, we are always looking to improve our product offer and continue to innovate by learning from the latest research and by working with the world’s leading experts on infection control,” says Waggott.
Stuart adds that hospitals do not want people to get sicker during their stay. “It’s not just the patients. It’s a matter of health and safety for everyone who works in healthcare as well – from the cleaners, to the people who deliver food to the patients and anyone else who uses the environment,” she says.