How Privacy Curtains Are Often Overlooked in Infection Prevention Efforts
Infection control is a challenge all hospitals face, and extensive tactics are implemented every year to minimize healthcare-associated infection (HAI). Privacy curtains are infamous for being often touched by a multitude of people, and yet there is still no regulation for how often they should be cleaned. Medical providers should proactively assess infection prevention options for their hospital cubicle curtains and linen before an incident happens.
Hospital Cubicle Curtains in the U.S.: The Risk
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that in any one given year, around 1 in 25 U.S. hospital patients will contract at least one HAI, costing an estimated $45 billion. HAIs can be contracted several ways, but research shows that up to 40% of HAIs can be traced to the contamination of healthcare workers’ hands. It’s therefore not surprising to learn that hospital privacy curtains are quickly and frequently infected with potentially dangerous bacteria. Laundering cubicle curtains is an effective way of keeping hospital patient surroundings safe, if done in accordance with OSHA and CDC regulations to ensure the proper removal of any pathogens. But changing out curtains can be time-consuming and managing them can be a full-time job. How can hospitals manage their privacy curtains and labor costs effectively while maintaining safety?
Privacy Curtains Sanitation: Where to Start
Until governing bodies recommend a cleaning frequency, as hospital curtains are textiles, looking at how textiles in healthcare are handled is a good starting point. The CDC specifically recommends how to handle laundry and bedding in their Guidelines for Environmental Infection Control in Health-Care Facilities. For one, they recommend at least hygienically cleaning laundry, as does the Healthcare Laundry Accreditation Council (HLAC). It’s important to understand that not all laundering is created equal. For example, the CDC cites that dry cleaning is ineffective in reducing bacteria and viruses on contaminated linen. Additionally, home laundering often uses temperature too low and detergent not designed for more than handling visible dirt to effectively reduce or eliminate pathogens. Therefore, start with a healthcare-only launderer that can hygienically clean, or even better yet sanitize, your laundry. As far as frequency, consider the various scenarios:
- For isolation cases: change out the curtains and bag the soiled curtains.
- For visibly stained curtains: change out the curtains and bag the soiled curtains.
- For ongoing: discuss your case load with the launderer and see what they recommend. A regular schedule and documentation proving the change will help establish a process.
Look for a Comprehensive Hospital Curtain Cleaning Program
Ensure Laundering Meets or Exceeds Infection Prevention Standards
Look for a launderer who is dedicated to the healthcare industry. Confirm that their wash is at least “hygienically clean” or even better, goes beyond to “sanitized”. The right launderer partner will have processes that meet or exceed OSHA, CDC, HLAC requirements, and comply with AAAHC, The Joint Commission requirements or other credentialing bodies.
Confirm the Solution is Focused on Safety
Changing a hospital privacy curtain should be safe and simple but it usually involves a ladder. Look for a provider that partners with you and handles the change for you. Certain providers offer simplified systems that have the panels that can be snapped on and off from a mesh hanging from the railing, without the need for a ladder.
Get Proof of Infection Prevention Compliance
Washing the curtains is one thing, tracking which one was changed and when is another. Ask your launderer how they track the change and what documentation they give you to confirm the work is done. Ideally, the right partner will leverage technology to minimize human error.
Ensure the Program is Full Service
The last thing you need is your staff managing curtain panels. Ensure your launderer will handle delivering clean, properly sanitized hospital privacy curtains, help manage your curtain inventory, change the curtains on a regular schedule, and provide documentation of the change. Beyond cleaning and sanitizing the curtain, your vendor should inspect the replaced curtains every time they launder them, and replace torn or permanently stained curtains at no cost to you.
Depending on the size of your facility, purchasing new curtains could require capital budget approval, upwards of six figures. A launderer partner can rent panels to you, so no capital expenditure budget is needed, and you avoid large upfront costs.
Get a Simplified Privacy Curtain System
Certain vendor partners offer programs that feature same-sized panels attached to a mesh of varying height to accommodate potentially inconsistent ceiling heights. This allows for all cubicle curtain panels to be the same size, making removal and replacement simple.
Contact ImageFIRST about Hospital Privacy Curtain Cleaning
Establishing a laundering program for your privacy curtains will help you increase your infection prevention efforts. Look for a partner that can give you a comprehensive program from product, laundering, delivery/pick up, and documentation while working within your budget. If you are interested in learning more about a cubicle curtain rental and laundry program, contact ImageFIRST at 800-932-7472.