While at ISSA/INTERCLEAN last month, I moderated a panel discussion that addressed some of the confusion surrounding disinfection. Because of the demand for infection prevention, I was anxious to help clear up some of the uncertainty in this area.

As many of you know, Medicare and Medicaid will no longer foot the bill for hospital-acquired infections (HAI), which puts a lot of pressure on environmental services professionals responsible for cleaning and disinfecting. Some startling statistics: 2.4 million people were affected by HAIs, resulting in between $35 to $45 billion in excess healthcare costs. Talk about pressure.

This potential financial burden and public relations nightmare has resulted in increased scrutiny for custodial professionals, who focus on proper cleaning and disinfecting procedures — and documentation — to remain compliant. In fact, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organization (JCAHO) is specifically looking at disinfection policies during the auditing process, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is analyzing best practices closely.

Proper disinfection is especially important in areas where Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), E. coli or Clostridium difficile (C.diff) have been detected. If ignored, MRSA can live on surfaces for up to 7 months, E. coli can live up to 16 months and C.diff can live up to 9 months. And all spread quickly and easily among building occupants.

It is essential that custodial personnel have a clear understanding of when and where to disinfect. But more importantly, it is vital to read disinfectant kill claims and use the correct product for the application. If you need clarification, reach out to your distributor or contact me and I can direct you to the appropriate people.