You may ask why we are dedicating two “CleanLink Minutes” to Nick Jacobs, CEO & President at Windber Medical Center, views of hospital housekeeping. For Nick's hospital and for many others, custodial operations is a key factor for patient safety, quality, infection control and patient loyalty. 

To read part one of Jacobs article on the importance of the cleaner's role in his facility, see Cleaning Hospitals: A Facility Executive's Perspective.

The following is an excerpt from Jacobs article:

The Critical Care Unit is always a priority area in the hospital. There is never any waiting at all there. When the CCU calls, the staff goes immediately into action. All equipment is cleaned, disinfected, and cared for after each patient. Special care is taken in this unit due to the nature of the types of services performed there, i.e., blood borne pathogens, special emergency procedures, and critical cases sometimes lead to extra maintenance issues for staff, but there are no short cuts taken here.

The Palliative Care Unit also presents special challenges. It is used for pain control, respite for the families and end of life situations. This unit often times might have its own washer and dryer and housekeeping takes care of the patient’s personal items here. This includes special types of care, i.e., Afghans are cleaned, folded and made available for patients.

Some hospitals use walkie talkies for environmental services staff to keep in constant contact with nursing stations, and whomever is closest helps on the call.

The Operating Room Floor is scrubbed and buffed every week constantly. Each surgical suite is disinfected after each case, and special mops specifically for the OR are used there only.

Generally the public areas and public restrooms are monitored throughout the day to be sure that everything is available and clean. The same holds true for patient lounges. Because patient lounges have refreshments for families, they are monitored very closely.

Infectious areas are also addressed very watchfully. Depending on the type of infection, various precautions can be taken. Usually all equipment that typically is in a patient’s room that is not needed by the infected patient is removed. That limits the need for infection control to just the area immediately around the patient.

Specific chemicals can be used to kill respiratory infections. The custodial staff will wear masks, use gloves, and separate cleaning cloths will be used for each room. Special hand sanitizers are also used.

Finally, chemicals can be added to disinfectants to improve the aroma. It is a nicer, non-antiseptic odor. Air fresheners are also used in bathrooms and all throughout hospital. 

Here are my thoughts on Jacobs' message:

While I don’t agree with several of Nick Jacobs’ suggestions such as “chemicals can be added to disinfectants to improve the aroma,” (and several others) I applaud his willingness to present his views from a hospital president’s perspective.  

Do not take everything he talks about as the correct way to maintain a safe, clean and disinfected environment in which patients can recuperate.  

If you have any questions or comments about Mr. Jacobs’ statements, please don’t hesitate to contact me.  


J. Darrel Hicks, REH, CHESP, is the author of "Infection Control For Dummies" and has over 30 years of experience in the jan/san industry. For a free 30-minute phone consultation, contact him at or through his website at