Infections drop as cleaning methods go under the microscope

5 April 2019

A trial of an environmental cleaning bundle involving University of Queensland researchers has shown there is a right way to clean, and that getting it right can reduce hospital-acquired infections and associated healthcare costs.

UQ School of Public Health Associate Professor Lisa Hall was one of the lead researchers on the Researching Effective Approaches to Cleaning in Hospitals (REACH) study that trialled cleaning approaches across 11 Australian hospitals.

She said the trial saw researchers working closely with staff in each hospital to explore baseline cleaning practices, understand local issues, and provide support to improve cleaning performance.

“For many years, we have understood that a clean hospital environment is the cornerstone of infection prevention and helps to keep patients and healthcare workers safe,” Associate Professor Hall said.

“However, environmental cleaning in hospitals remains a complex task because there is currently no standardisation in training for cleaners – nor the products they use.

“There is also a lack of clarity about who is responsible for cleaning what in situations where cleaning responsibilities are shared across work roles.

“A key success of the trial was addressing the wide variation in hospital cleaning practices to improve standard cleaning quality across hospitals.

“We achieved an improved standard of cleaning across hospitals by implementing five core components that addressed staff training, cleaning techniques, products used, auditing of cleaning activities, and promoting the importance of good cleaning practices in the hospital environment.”

The REACH project found both routine and discharge cleaning practices improved under the initiative.

The low-cost intervention helped participating hospitals improve their cleaning practices from 55 to 76 per cent in bathroom areas and from 64 to 86 per cent in bedroom areas.

“We observed improvements in several healthcare-associated infections – with a 37 per cent reduction in vancomycin-resistance enterococci (VRE),” Associate Professor Hall said. 

“This has important policy implications, as many hospitals are struggling with increasing rates of VRE, which has the potential to put a significant burden on both patient and hospital budgets.” 

The REACH study was funded by a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) grant, led by QUT, in partnership with Wesley Medical Research, and supported by Kimberly-Clark Professional, Ecolab Pty Ltd, Whiteley Corporation, the Deeble Institute for Health Policy Research, Australasian College for Infection Prevention and Control and the Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases.

Study investigators were Professor Nick Graves, Professor Adrian Barnett, Associate Professor Lisa Hall, Dr Kate Balcon, Dr Katie Page, Professor Anne Gardner (QUT), Professor Brett Mitchell (Avondale College), Professor David Paterson, Professor Christian Gericke (UQ) and Professor Tom Riley (University of Western Australia).

The research is published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases DOI:

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