Setting a new standard in infection control

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Niagara Health System’s new hospital has numerous design features to battle spread of super bugs

They’re the bane of hospitals and long-term care facilities across the country. These microscopic bacteria  — so-called superbugs like C. difficile and MRSA — cast massive shadows as they spread their damage. Controlling the spread of these germs and the infections they cause takes a multi-pronged approach, combining greater education, state-of-the-art equipment and high-level professional standards of care.

The newly opened St. Catharines Site of the Niagara Health System is making the most of all of these tactics. The comprehensive acute-care hospital, which opened its doors at the end of March, is one of the most advanced hospital designs in Canada when it comes to infection prevention and control.

The building — nearly one million square feet in size — incorporates all of the latest infection prevention and control standards in its design. “The new St. Catharines Site was designed to support a healing environment that is equipped to protect patients, staff and visitors from infections,” says NHS Infection Prevention and Control Manager Shelley Schmidt. “Everything from air flow to floor layout, to materials to the number of sinks in the facility was purposely designed and utilized to reduce the risk of infection.”

Eighty per cent of the rooms in the hospital are single-patient occupancy — the highest average of single-patient rooms in Ontario — which helps curb the spread of infections. Each single-patient room has a private washroom and shower. The four-bed wards have two washrooms per room and every patient room features a separate sink exclusively for staff hand washing use.

Isolation Rooms

Each patient floor has isolation rooms with negative air pressure, which pulls air into the room and prevents cross-contamination. Each isolation room also has an ante-room to be used by staff entering and exiting the room that ensures the negative air pressure is maintained at all times. Throughout the facility are an unprecedented 1,400 hand-washing sinks, with a similar number of alcohol hand-rub dispensers.

“Fighting superbugs is a reality for all hospitals and will always present a challenge, but the innovative design features of the new facility will help us control these infections,” says NHS Interim Chief of Staff Dr. Joanna Hope. “Our staff, physicians and volunteers are committed to ensuring patients receive safe, quality care.”

The hospital design also allows for the segregation of patient zones, enabling the hospital to be split into two distinct air-handling zones to allow for a complete isolation in the event of a pandemic or other significant event. The ventilation system is designed to keep contaminated air from flowing into other parts of the hospital. The walls in the operating rooms are lined with corian, a first for Canadian  hospitals. Corian is a special material that is solid, non-porous and seamless, making it easier to clean and control the spread of harmful bacteria.

The ORs are also serviced by a clean restricted corridor that includes a private elevator that connects the operating suites with a state-of-the-art cleaning, disinfection and sterilization facility in the basement of the hospital. This design is intended to keep sterile items separated, and contain any contaminants within the soiled items area. Articulating arms from the walls and ceilings in key areas such as ORs and ICU bring equipment off the floor and promote better cleaning.

In addition, solid movable partitions have been used in place of curtains and bedside curtains have been minimized wherever possible to ensure easier cleaning. “Our organization is committed to adhering to the highest possible standards for infection prevention and control at all of our sites,” says Ms. Schmidt. “Ensuring the safety and comfort of our patients, their visitors and our staff is our top priority.”

Infection prevention and control at the St. Catharines Site of the NHS

•  80% single patient rooms

• 1,400 hand-washing sinks, and nearly as many alcohol hand-rub dispensers

• Corian walls in the operating rooms and procedure rooms

• Cabinets for personal protective equipment outside of patient rooms • Isolation capabilities in event of an outbreak

• Articulating arms from ceilings in key areas to keep equipment off the floor and promote better cleaning

• Solid moveable partitions used in place of curtains where possible

• Public elevators separate from those for patients, staff and service