Design and Construction, Heating and Cooling, Maintenance and Operations, Safety

Protecting Patients and Staff During Hospital Renovations

In an innovative world where most industries’ biggest challenges are solved by technology, having the latest and greatest upgrades is essential—especially in healthcare. In fact, healthcare facilities continually strive to have the best equipment available in order to provide the best experience possible for patients and keep the facility thriving long term. However, with the upgrades sometimes comes the need for construction.

While indoor air quality is important in any industry, it’s particularly crucial for contractors and facilities managers working in healthcare. When doing construction, renovations, or repairs in an active hospital, protecting air quality should be a top priority.

The Risks to Patient Health and Comfort

In an ideal world, hospital stays would always be a time of rest and recovery. However, hospital-acquired infections, also known as healthcare-associated infections (HAI), are a major concern—especially for patients who are immunocompromised. The CDC has estimated that on, any given day, 1 in 31 hospital patients is dealing with HAI.

Additionally, construction work can cause excessive noise and vibrations, which can negatively impact the health of patients—especially in NICUs, where excessive vibration can inhibit certain organ development in newborns. Additionally, these hazards may impact concentration and productivity for hospital staff, plus prevent patients from getting the sleep they need for recovery.

To mitigate these risks, hospitals and contractors should follow the Infection Control Risk Assessment (ICRA) and ICRA best practices provided in the planning stages of the project. This includes taking steps to effectively isolate, capture, and control airborne dust particles and pathogens.

It’s a big job. But, having the right tools can make that job simpler.

A Modern Approach to Containment 

First and foremost, construction zones must be sealed off from patient-occupied areas. Traditionally, contractors have used either drywall with insulation or poly sheeting. However, both options require a lot of time and labor for setup, maintenance, and removal. Plus, drywall and poly sheeting are both one-time-use materials, so the costs and waste add up over time. Now, more and more contractors are turning to an alternative: modular containment wall systems. 

Modular containment wall systems are durable, reusable, and adjustable enough for almost any construction environment. They can offer several benefits over other containment methods, including:

  • Quick, simple, cleaner setup: Just a couple workers are needed to transport, assemble, and take down the walls. This means reduced labor and material costs for contractors, and minimal disruptions for everyone at the hospital.
  • Easy sanitation: Just like any other area of a hospital, containment areas need to be kept clean. The interiors and exteriors of modular containment wall systems are easy to wipe down and disinfect. The material is durable enough for routine sanitization throughout the duration of a project.
  • Sound attenuation: Some modular containment wall systems come with built-in sound barrier insulation. This feature significantly reduces noise in occupied adjacent areas, reducing the chances of disrupting patients and hospital staff.
  • Visual appeal: Modular containment walls can be more aesthetically pleasing than drywall or poly sheeting. Their sleek appearance helps hospitals maintain a neat, professional atmosphere during ongoing construction, whereas drywall may require frequent repairs and repainting over the span of the project.
  • Long-term cost and waste reduction: Modular containment walls can be used over and over again. They’re a great investment that pay for themselves in just a few uses when considering the rising costs of building materials and disposal costs. They’re also the more environmentally friendly option, compared to one-time-use materials.   

Beyond putting up a physical barrier, contractors also need an effective way to create negative pressure and monitor airflow.

Solutions Working in Tandem

HEPA filtration equipment and air pressure monitors can be used in conjunction with a modular containment wall system to maintain negative air pressure within a construction area.

Negative air pressure means that more air is exiting the containment area than entering it. This will reduce the risk of contaminated air escaping into patient-occupied areas of the hospital. To achieve this, contractors should follow a few key steps:

  1. Set up the modular containment wall system;
  2. Seal off any HVAC returns to minimize the chance of contaminated air escaping;
  3. Filter air in the containment area with a HEPA portable air scrubber;
  4. Exhaust the filtered air out of the area through duct work using a portable air scrubber; and
  5. Monitor negative pressurization using a differential pressure monitor with visual and audible alarms and recordability for future reference.

Altogether, the right precautions and solutions can prevent the spread of dangerous contaminants to patient-occupied areas. And fortunately, contractors and facilities managers don’t have to figure it all out alone. An experienced air filtration solutions provider will be educated on ICRA standards and can provide solutions to help contractors meet the requirements. A reliable solutions provider will deliver a complete containment solution fit for the hospital environment that protects patients and workers alike. 

Sue Hoffmann is regional sales manager at Abatement Technologies.

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