‘Virus-proofing’ hospital premises: Mix of technologies and disinfection measures needed

Malaysia’s Regency Specialist Hospital shares the range of infection control measures it has in place, from air sterilisers to UV-C light sterilising robots

The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken public confidence in the level of safety at hospitals, and some patients have chosen to delay or cancel their appointments due to fear of catching the virus. In Malaysia, this issue is further exacerbated with the stubbornly high number of new COVID infections in recent weeks.

Against this backdrop, hospitals will have to strictly adhere with the latest guidelines from the health ministry, and implement strict infection control measures to assure patients that they are in safe hands.

Ms. Serena Yong
Ms. Serena Yong

Malaysia’s Regency Specialist Hospital is well aware of the responsibility it holds to ensure patient safety, and has put in place a range of measures to mitigate the risk of Healthcare-associated Infections. “As healthcare providers, safety is and will always be our utmost priority. By adopting good infection control practices, and innovating with the use of technology can help to fight against COVID-19. It is also our responsibility as healthcare providers to reassure the public that it is safe to attend their health appointments during this period of pandemic,” said Ms Serena Yong, Chief Executive Officer of Regency Specialist Hospital.

Keeping hospital premises ‘virus-proof’

Keeping a 218-bed healthcare facility as clean and virus-free as possible is not an easy task, when there is a constant busy stream of staff, patients and visitors passing through its doors throughout the day. To add on to the problem, there was a need to reduce the number of staff in high traffic areas, due to social distancing requirements. With cleaning staff being placed on shift systems, manpower planning was hence a challenge.

For Regency, one of the mitigating measures has been to pay close attention to manual cleaning to ensure comprehensive elimination of germs and microbes. Regency’s cleaning staff has carried out higher frequency cleaning of high-touch and high-traffic areas, such as the lobby, main corridors, clinics and public toilets, using high-level disinfectants. As a MSQH (Malaysian Society for Quality in Health)-accredited hospital, all cleaning vendors working at the hospital premises have been certified to be fully compliant with MSQH’s hygiene and cleaning standards.

Other measures include application of an anti-microbial coating on all high-touch points such as lift buttons, lift walls, and staircase railings. This coating inhibits microbial growth and inactivates harmful microbes with resonance technology.

The virus has been shown to transmit more easily in confined, enclosed spaces with slow air ventilation, such as lifts. As a precautionary measure, the hospital has installed UV-C air sterilisers in its lifts, to ensure continuous disinfection of the air.

Hospitals have increasingly looked to robots to scale up the fight against viruses. In 2020, Regency’s introduced its sterilising robots – named Sunburst UV Bots – emit ultraviolet-C (UV-C) light for disinfection. Tests have shown that UV-C light can kill around 99 percent of bacteria and viruses.

UV robotRegency’s autonomous mobile robots are able to navigate and adapt to changes in their environments, as well as identify the most efficient routes for cleaning around common areas, corridors, wards, and other facilities in the hospital.

The use of such robots complement manual cleaning, with manual cleaning carried out first, followed by the UV bots coming in to disinfect. This process achieves better cleaning outcomes and greater efficiency, with Regency estimating that robots take only around 10 minutes to disinfect an area of 15 sqm.

“The use of these Sunburst UV Bots are definitely more efficient to help disinfect vast areas systematically and automatically,” said Sis. Pushpa Rani Nair Appoo, Nurse Manager, Prevention & Infection Control. “In addition, they help to relieve the strain and danger faced by the cleaning teams when disinfecting large areas such as our main lobby, all the clinics, as well as the main corridors on the ground floor.”

The importance of cleaning, then disinfecting

As we have seen from cases of hospital cluster infections reported around the world, just one small slip-up can lead to serious consequences in a healthcare setting.

With still no end in sight to the fight against COVID-19, hospitals will have to remain extra vigilant and constantly look out for and incorporate the latest guidelines in their infection control protocol. For example, a key guideline from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is the need to remove microbes with microfibre cloths after killing them with disinfectants. Wiping with paper towels or cloths leave dead microbes on the surface, which becomes a breeding ground for the next generation of microbes. Hence, while adoption of such disinfection technologies will boost hospitals’ infection control efforts, it is also crucial to constantly review and incorporate best practices into manual cleaning processes and procedures.

Take a look at this brochure for more information on the importance of removal of microbes.

For more information about COVID-19, you may refer to this e-booklet produced by Regency.