By Enrico Allegra – Microbiologist at Inivos (www.hygiene-solutions.co.uk)
The impact that the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had on care facilities and their residents in the UK has been significant. Here, Enrico Allegra, a Microbiologist at infection control experts Inivos, outlines how to create a safe environment for staff and residents as Britain enters the Christmas period and families are allowed to visit.
New Government guidance today has stated that care home residents in England will be able to spend some of the festive season with their family or friends. People living in care homes in England will be able to have visits from family and friends by Christmas if the visitors test negative for COVID-19.
For many care residents, for whom seeing loved ones is a treasured lifeline, this is very welcome news. However, as COVID-19’s symptoms are so varied with many people only suffering mild symptoms or being completely asymptomatic, the virus can spread quickly as people do not realise they are an active carrier and continue to interact with others and pass on the infection. This means robust measures need to be implemented by care homes to ensure that the risk of transmission is low, especially over the Christmas period when families can visit.
GOOD INFECTION CONTROL IS ESSENTIAL
In the early months of the pandemic, manual deep cleaning was the recommended method to help control the spread of the virus. While deep cleaning is vital for good hygiene, manual cleaning alone is not enough to control the spread of the virus. Coronavirus particles are easily transmitted, which means they can cover a large surface area very easily. Therefore, manual cleaning alone can leave dangerous traces of the virus behind through unavoidable human error.
The risk of becoming infected is also heightened because of the nature of how COVID-19 can spread. We know that SARS-CoV-2 is predominantly spread via airborne droplets , meaning that the virus can linger in the air for prolonged periods of time. Therefore, if just one person in a care home is infected, the virus has the potential to spread to an entire room of people very quickly.
To help manage the spread of the virus over the festive period, care homes should utilise Ultraviolet-C (UV-C) decontamination technology to ensure patient areas are a safe space for residents. The Ultra-V UV-C system is ideal for care homes over Christmas because its short cycle time allows for rooms to be easily decontaminated when residents are in communal areas with staff or their families.
If families and friends are visiting care homes frequently over the holidays, care home managers need to ensure that buildings are thoroughly decontaminated regularly, as this is the only way to ensure all traces of the virus are eradicated after visiting hours.
BEST PRACTICE HYGIENE SYSTEMS NEED TO BE IN PLACE
One of the simplest ways to ensure the safety of all staff and residents over the Christmas period is to implement good hygiene systems and protocols.
It is essential that care home managers take adequate steps to mitigate infection risks in all areas of the care home.
By implementing a policy where all staff must wear personal protective equipment (PPE) and providing hand hygiene kits for all staff, care home managers can help to reassure employees and residents that they are safe and protected.
PPE shortages are a huge concern for the care industry and while many care home managers have made significant efforts to ensure stocks don’t run out, it is still vital that care home managers plan-ahead for over the Christmas holidays as the homes will potentially be welcoming higher numbers of outside visitors.
Workplace Infection Prevention Assessments and ongoing training for staff can also help care homes to identify areas which pose a risk while also making sure staff are up to date with all the latest safety measures.
CHRISTMAS BUBBLES AND INFECTION SAFETY
Whilst socialisation is important for good mental health and wellbeing; it could also allow for the virus to spread quickly through care homes if appropriate measures are not put into place.
Therefore, it is important that residents who do join external bubbles should maintain social distancing, wash their hands regularly and keep doors and windows open to allow fresh air to circulate if they are inside.
When families begin to visit care homes and staff start to mingle with friends and family over the holidays, it’s important that care home managers keep buildings as safe as possible to limit the spread of the virus. However, by following these simple rules the safety of staff and residents can be assured so everyone can enjoy spending time with their loved ones.
For more information, please contact Inivos@ThePHAGroup.com or call 0203 848 7424