Two people disinfecting in an ICU

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise and fall across the country and businesses rethink what reopening looks like, it is more important than ever to make sure that heightened and strategic disinfection, sanitization and cleaning procedures and measures are being used in the workplace. 

For more into what that looks like, we reached out to Rich Feczko, national director of systems, standards and innovation at Crothall Healthcare. Crothall is a national leader in hospital environmental services and infection prevention that has been on the frontlines for sanitation during COVID-19.

CleanLink: What are the three biggest challenges environmental services (EVS) teams are facing during the fight against COVID-19? 

Feczko: The first challenge is easing the anxiety following a very new pandemic and virus strain within our teams, as well as allowing for comfort with the communities and facilities we provide services to, re-insuring that our processes provide safe environments for all.

EVS teams are also having to pivot to address recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on cleaning frequency of non-clinical spaces that could be impacted by the COVID-19 exposure.

Finally, many teams are experiencing staffing challenges they’ve not faced before. Managers are addressing and assisting with associate staffing levels, which have ebbed and flowed during this pandemic. They are utilizing our broad reach of talent to support any staffing shortages or labor management challenge that presented itself.

CleanLink: What best practices have you put in place to keep the EVS team safe and working efficiently during this unprecedented time?

Feczko: We have implemented informational sessions and new meeting protocols for our teams. This includes routine communications and webinar sessions to provide updates on internal standards and regulatory changes to our associates and teams. We also continue to share broadly about new and innovative practices that support the mitigation of COVID19, as well as full process and safety compliance.  

We hold sessions around personal protective equipment usage and overviews. We also practice social distancing awareness and protocols during meetings, and we adjust any other group sessions that may have several participants.

Finally, we have upgraded typical isolation protocols and plugged in the relevant best infectious disease transmission practices to further mitigate the contagion in clinical and non-clinical spaces. This includes our Operational Mitigation of Infectious Transmission approach to various COVID-19 related spaces, such as occupied patient rooms, terminal discharge patient rooms, impression area mitigation and cluster mitigation.

CleanLink: How can managers recognize and celebrate their teams right now, and why is it important to do so? 

Feczko: It’s so important to us to continue celebrating our teams’ hard work and dedication to patient safety during these times. To do so, we have extended our major employee recognition programs to emphasize amazing performers during the pandemic. For example, our Great Employees Make Magic program is a company funded recognition and performance criteria that is included during the assessment for reward.

Additionally, our “Spot Awards” are “on the spot” recognition that is funded by the location recognizing incredible “at the moment” performance and celebrated both individually and as a department team.

CleanLink: Have you changed any cleaning and disinfecting processes as a result of the recent pandemic? 

Feczko: During the recent pandemic, we have increased disinfecting frequencies in public spaces, specifically high touch surfaces including but not limited to: elevator floor key pads, ATM code pads, public area furniture, and high-touch surfaces in waiting areas and lobbies.

We have also extended the use of our scientific surface measurement, like ATP swabbing, from its primary use in clinical spaces, to now include ancillary and public spaces to ensure further disinfection processes are adhered and validated.

CleanLink: Healthcare facilities are traditionally better prepared and funded for situations like this – compared to K-12 schools, offices or retail, for example. What advice would you give other cleaning managers looking for help combating viruses and fighting for the budgets to do so? 

Feczko: We have found that an increased focus is needed on areas of heightened risk in the K-12, offices, etc, which are generally – but not limited to – surfaces in elevators, lobbies, corridors, public restrooms and gymnasiums or locker rooms. Adjusting cleaning frequencies to address the consistent disinfecting and monitoring needed in these spaces, particularly the high touch surfaces, is critical. The addition of ATP swabbing not only validates the disinfection, it also demonstrates another actionable step to the community that we are ensuring a safe environment.

CleanLink: What cleaning assurances (signage, "smell of clean," additional sanitizer stands, etc.) do you have in place and how do you communicate them to healthcare staff, patients and visitors? 

Feczko: Our infrastructure includes a few shifts that we have been made and extend to all aspects of the hospitals we provide services to.

Positive impressions and scripting has been modified to include verbal communications, integrated with social distancing to provide comfort to the patients, families and staff, and assure the community that we not only disinfect, but are also observing all guidelines to maintain a safe environment for all.

Another shift is the extension of the use of ATP (as noted above) to provide a visual and measured (by scientific surface swab testing) validation that the facility is clean.

Additionally, we work in lock step with the hospital infection prevention team to review and adhere to hand care and sanitizer monitoring and re-fill opportunities.

Finally, the intelligent and safe use of adjunct technology, like UV-C, electrostatic and surface barrier applications are also weaved in where applicable, showcasing the heightened focus on the virus mitigation.