Hospital washing system: prevention is better than cure

sistema lavagem hospitalar
9 minutes to read

In comparison with other fields of medicine, revolutions in the field of Infectious Diseases are relatively infrequent. The last one occurred about 25 years ago, with the addition of alcohol gel. This seemingly small change continues to save millions of lives every year. Meanwhile, the Covid-19 pandemic has again posed the question: how do we create an effective hospital washing system?

What is a washing system?

A washing system encompasses a set of equipment, processes, and technologies used to perform the cleaning of equipment, work pieces, surfaces, or industrial utensils. This system is designed to meet the specific needs of different industries, where hygiene and cleanliness are critical success factors.

Industrial washing equipment – such as the MultiWasher Healthtech – is designed to effectively remove different types of dirt, residues, and contaminants such as grease, oils, solid particles, chemicals, and microorganisms on food or clothing carts.

What should an industrial washing system include?

An industrial washing system should include several components and elements to ensure efficient and proper washing.

  • Specialized washing equipment. Washing equipment should be selected based on the specific needs of the industry, the type of dirt to be removed, and the characteristics of the products to be washed. When designing an industrial washing system, it is important to consider sustainable and energy-efficient practices. This is the case with MultiWasher Healthtech, which uses water reuse technologies, heat recovery systems, and more sustainable chemicals, besides optimizing energy consumption for washing food carts and laundry carts in hospital catering and laundry areas.
  • Cleaning products. Choosing the right cleaning products is essential to remove different types of dirt and hazardous biological waste. It is important to choose chemicals that are safe, effective, and compatible with the materials being washed.
  • Control and automation equipment. Automation plays a key role in an industrial washing system. For example, the use of sensors, timers, and monitoring systems ensures precise control of washing processes, proper dosing of chemicals, and operational efficiency.
  • Proper structure and layout. An industrial washing system should be designed with a suitable structure that facilitates the efficient flow of the products to be washed. It is also important to consider the available space in the industrial facility.
  • Standard Operating Procedures. It is essential to define and implement standard operating procedures not only to guide operators – regarding correct washing steps, equipment usage, chemical dosages, and equipment maintenance and cleaning – but also to ensure compliance with regulations.
  • Maintenance procedures. Besides cleaning procedures, an industrial washing system requires a regular maintenance routine to ensure proper equipment operation and extended equipment life. This may include regularly checking components, changing filters, lubricating moving parts, checking for leaks, and scheduling preventive maintenance.

What are the advantages of having a washing system?

Implementing an industrial washing system offers several advantages for companies, especially for hospital catering and laundries. These two cases present very challenging needs. Utensils used in hospital catering must be sanitized to ensure the health of patients and hospital staff. Therefore, items such as trays, cutlery, cups, containers, and transport carts require a washing system to ensure perfect sanitation and safe use. Hospital laundries also have specific needs, such as the correct processing of textiles, side tables, carts, and transport baskets.

There are several advantages to having a washing system, which cut across these two main cases. The benefits include:

1. Efficient cleaning

An industrial washing system is designed to remove dirt, residues, and elements that can contaminate industrial equipment, parts, and surfaces. The combination of specialized equipment, appropriate washing chemicals, and specific techniques results in more thorough and efficient sanitization than conventional methods.

2. Improved product quality

An industrial washing system eliminates impurities, unwanted particles, and bacteria that can affect both product quality and safety. This is especially relevant in sectors such as the food and pharmaceutical industries.

3. Compliance with regulations and standards

The food, pharmaceutical, and healthcare industries are subject to stringent regulations regarding hygiene, safety, and environmental compliance. A proper industrial washing system enables companies to meet these requirements by ensuring compliance with applicable standards and regulations. This prevents legal problems and protects the company’s reputation.

4. Increased productivity

With an efficient industrial washing system, the time required to perform sanitization is reduced. This results in less production downtime, allowing for increased production capacity and better workflow. In addition, automation and optimization free up human resources for more productive tasks.

5. Save resources

A well-designed and customized industrial washing system saves water, energy, and washing chemicals. With the right equipment, correct dosing of chemicals, and efficient control of water and energy consumption, companies can reduce waste and operating costs.

6. Improved safety and working environment

Industrial washing also contributes to a safer and healthier working environment. Removing hazardous waste and biological elements reduces the risk of accidents and occupational illness. In addition, compliance with cleaning and hygiene practices creates a more pleasant and productive work environment.

How much does the lack of a hospital washing system cost?

Non-washing costs exist and are much higher than the expense of washing products, equipment, or staff training. The lack of a hospital washing system impacts the increase in the number of days spent in the hospital and the occupancy of staff and operating rooms, to name a few of the most important operational indicators.

In some cases, the costs are easier to quantify. A relatively small outbreak with approximately 40 cases of antibiotic resistance in West London, caused by the washout system, cost a single hospital more than €1 million. But there are simple ways to avoid this scenario.

How to create an effective hospital washing system?

Hygiene in the hospital environment is complex, as it depends on the pathogens present, which determine the most suitable equipment, the cleaning products used, and the procedures to be followed. But to create an effective washing system, it is also necessary to consider the type of surface, the level of contamination of the environment and, finally, the training of the teams.

These are the most important steps in creating an effective washing system:

1.     Reduce reliance on detergents and other chemicals

Washing systems are designed for a wide variety of detergents and chemicals such as alcohol, chlorine, or hydrogen peroxide. But none of these solutions is perfect.

The ideal cleaner would have to be effective against all bacteria and viruses, without impacting the environment, and completely safe and easy to use. Such a product does not yet exist.

For example, hydrogen peroxide vapor leaves no residue in the environment, but it is expensive, can be corrosive, and is difficult to use compared to liquid disinfectants. Chlorine solutions are effective against spores but have a strong odor, leave residues, and can damage certain environmental surfaces. UV light leaves no residue but cannot disinfect areas on which it cannot shine directly – as is the case with most medical supplies.

In short, most cleaners only work against certain types of pathogens, others are toxic, and others degrade materials in the patient environment.

Therefore, in Somengil we have created the MultiWasher Healthtech, an industrial washing machine that can achieve a degree of hospital disinfection for laundry and catering products with less use of chemicals. Alternatively, this equipment performs high temperature washing cycles that achieve the same results without harmful side effects for the environment and for patients in laundry and hospital catering products.

2.     Clearly define the roles and responsibilities of each team

In a study conducted in a hospital setting, one-third of the aides and nurses interviewed admitted that they were unsure about their laundry responsibilities.

For example, if the person who is supposed to wash medical equipment is not clearly defined, it is likely that no one will do it. Absences, understaffing, and the transfer of responsibilities between colleagues can complicate an already unclear situation and result in failing to perform a crucial wash. These small errors can compromise the entire washing system.

3.     Invest in automation as a promoter of hospital washing systems

Manual processes may be an immediate solution, but they cannot guarantee a consistent and complete wash every cycle. After all, even the most experienced and well-trained people make mistakes. And even when utensil washes are done according to the latest protocols, they may not be effective – one study found soiling in 50% of cases after manual cleaning. Hospital environments are complex and very difficult to keep properly clean with purely manual approaches.

Automatic washing systems, on the other hand, ensure high-quality washing in every cycle. With the MultiWasher Healthtech, it is even possible to assess washing quality thanks to ATP measurers. These small devices quantify the degree of brightness emitted by organisms on each surface to assess whether the wash is as expected.

Automation raises the standard of washing, ensures quality, and prevents occupational illnesses of work crews related to repetitive tasks. It also saves time on manual washing and supervisory tasks, and frees up staff to focus on higher value-added tasks.

4.     Recognize the risk of infection from objects and tools

Anyone who visits a hospital and finds a dirt stain on the floor or ceiling will naturally be alarmed. In contrast, objects and tools may appear clean and go unnoticed but be covered in pathogens.

Despite this, the focus of many wash systems remains on cleaning the spaces, rather than the surfaces and equipment that are in contact with patients. If teams have clean hands and touch only clean surfaces, the risk of transmission will be low. But if people touch dirty surfaces and then touch a patient, there is a real risk of transmission.

To prevent the spread of infectious diseases, it’s important to recognize that these surfaces have the potential to act as spreaders of microorganisms when used without thorough sanitization. This is why we designed the MultiWasher Healthtech, which washes any type of object and utensil associated with a kitchen and laundry environment.

Prevention is always better and cheaper than the cure. Therefore, when deciding on a washing system, hospitals should consider the total costs – including the cost of not doing so. Contact our team to see the MultiWasher Healthtech in action.

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