General care

Ozone cleaning system answers superbug crisis

11 October 2007

A major city hospital in the UK has become the first in the National Health Service (NHS) to invest in a revolutionary cleaning system that helps reduce the environmental reservoir of resistant organisms such as MRSA and Clostridium difficile.

York Hospital has installed the OTEX laundry system for microfibre cloths and mops as part of a new innovation plan developed in preparation for Domestic Services going back inhouse after being contracted out for 14 years. A major aspect of the plan was the introduction of a new microfibre system that proved to be a contributing factor to a dramatic improvement in the hospital’s cleaning standards.

The OTEX system and other new measures have been quick to pay dividends. Results of regular internal audits to check cleanliness levels have improved significantly and have registered ‘scores’ of up to 96%.

There are mounting concerns in the NHS about hospital-acquired infections, including the recent news over 90 deaths in hospitals in Kent, where police are reported to be investigating whether prosecutions should be brought. The National Audit Office estimates hospital-acquired infections contribute to about 5,000 deaths annually.

Facilities management companies serving seven other NHS trusts were already successfully using OTEX in hospitals, but York became the first hospital to introduce the system as part of a cleaning operation staffed by its own personnel.

"There had been a lot of talk within the NHS about microfibre mops and cloths, which basically act like magnets for bacteria and dust," says domestic manager Wendy Dale.

"We spent two months assessing which types of microfibre were most effective and during that period it became clear that it was essential for the fibre to be thoroughly cleaned. The decision to bring our domestic services inhouse and the increased financial investment couldn’t have been timed better."

"JLA were recommended to us by the detergent specialists Ecolab and were invited on site to discuss our requirements to set up our own on-site laundry facilities within our available funds. JLA assisted in identifying the most suitable place to locate a laundry. They produced CAD/CAM designs for the laundry and, based on the numbers of mops and cloths we processed, calculated how many machines we would need and what capacities they should be.

"What impressed us most was JLA’s OTEX system. The combination of the system’s ability to thoroughly disinfect and the costs it saves was a major factor when it came to choosing JLA as our supplier."

In the NHS, thermal disinfection has traditionally been the preferred method of processing foul or infected laundry. But scientific tests by independent microbiologists Microsearch Laboratories have shown that it is ineffective against the Clostridium difficile superbug.

Clostridium difficile is now a bigger killer than MRSA, with figures released by the Health Protection Agency last year indicating that it was seven times more prevalent.

One Microsearch test focused on a mop that had been used in a healthcare environment other than York Hospital. Microsearch microbiologists thermally disinfected the mop — only to find that it was still teeming with 150,000 Clostridium difficile colonies.

In contrast, further tests by Microsearch proved that the OTEX system, which injects ozone — a powerful natural disinfectant 3,200 times more effective than chlorine — into the wash process, is able to destroy Clostridium difficile spores along with other micro organisms including MRSA on all wash cycles.

Another major benefit is that OTEX uses mostly cold water and faster wash cycles, dramatically reducing utility and detergent costs and cutting labour bills by saving time.

"OTEX has proved to be extremely effective, both in terms of making savings and disinfecting," says Wendy. "Our laundry is in operation round the clock seven days a week, processing over 4,000 microfibre mops and cloths a day, so being able to save energy was vital.

"JLA actually metered the electricity supply to the laundry and established that OTEX was saving us 82% compared to a conventional laundry. An added bonus was that we are now only using half as much detergent because of the way the system processes laundry."

"Our weekly internal audits involve different teams carrying out hygiene checks in all areas of the hospital and using three colours to score them — red, amber and green. Red is poor, amber acceptable and green good or better.

"Since we introduced microfibre and OTEX, the difference has been significantly improved. The weekly green scores have been as high as 96% and on many weeks there have been no red scores at all."

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