International experts in infection control and disease prevention met this week at the Inaugural iClean 2020 conference in Sydney to discuss the pressing need for innovative infection control reform in hospitals and aged care facilities, in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.

According to keynote speaker, Professor Didier Pittet, Chair, Clean Hospitals, Director of the Infection Control Programme and World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre on Patient Safety, University of Geneva Hospitals, Switzerland, there has never been a more pertinent time to address infection control in our healthcare systems.

“During this devastating COVID-19 pandemic, up to one-in-five people who have contracted the virus globally are healthcare workers. We saw similar numbers with the SARs and MERS outbreaks.

“Furthermore, aged care residents accounted for 29 per cent of COVID-19-related deaths in Australia, and this rate is even higher in Europe, the United States and the United Kingdom, who have been hardest hit by the pandemic,” said Prof Pittet.

“We are therefore, calling for urgent reform in our approach to cleaning and disinfection in hospitals and aged care homes. Through the ‘Clean Hospitals’ initiative, we hope to create better procedures, training, auditing and management processes, that will allow cleaning and infection control managers around the world to improve quality and outcomes.”

Clean Hospitals is an international network seeking to harness the collective strength of industry, academia, hospitals, government bodies and key stakeholders across disciplines, to increase patient safety, and focus international attention on the need for improved hospital environmental hygiene.

According to Professor Ruth Carrico, Family Nurse Practitioner, Division of Infectious Diseases, and Clinical Director of the Global Health Center Vaccine and International Travel Clinic, University of Louisville School of Medicine, USA, “Reforming hospital and aged care disinfection systems can not only help to continue to manage COVID-19, but also reduce the incidence of other hospital and aged care facility-acquired infections.

“We need to look at hospitals and aged care facilities as a ‘patient’ that requires a cohesive and interdependent team to care for it. While in some ways, the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed flaws in the way we control infection, it has also provided an opportunity for us to reform these systems to better manage future outbreaks,” Prof Carrico said.

According to System Director of EVS, Safety and Security, Northside Hospital, Fiona Nemetz, Atlanta, providing comprehensive education and training to environmental services teams is just as critical as providing these services to healthcare workers.

“Ensuring all teams that make up the hospital infection control system are armed with the knowledge and tools to continue to effectively do their job, will help reassure both workers and the public, that the hospital is a safe place to be.”