How are Hospitals Being Cleaned?

May 30, 2020

The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients has reduced significantly. With this reduction, people are encouraged to see their doctor and visit hospitals for any care needs that were previously postponed.

Before you walk in, you should know what hospitals are doing to make sure these spaces are clean and free of COVID-19. Here’s what we’re doing at Hackensack Meridian Health to clean our hospitals:

Journey Mapping

A team was developed to walk step-by-step in the patient’s shoes to make sure that all safety precautions are in place. The journey mapping starts from when a patient pulls up to valet, walks into the lobby, heads to pre-admission testing, the operating room waiting area, and so on.

Are masks being worn? Is there enough space for social distancing? Is there hand sanitizer available? Are people being screened and isolated appropriately if they might have COVID-19? These are just a few of the items being reviewed.

There’s a thorough check list that needs to be 100% complete before the hospital has the greenlight to move forward with elective surgeries, procedures or testing/screenings. During this journey mapping process, areas that may have come in contact with COVID-19 are identified for rigorous cleaning.

Here’s how the cleaning process works:

  1. Area is prepped – Any potentially contaminated materials are removed. The room is stripped of linens, curtains, and any other supplies. If items cannot be cleaned they are discarded.
  2. Terminal cleaning takes place – This is a common cleaning method used in health care to control the spread of infections. Everything from the ceiling to the floor is wiped down with a disinfectant. This includes areas like lighting, air ducts and vents. All detachable items are removed, disinfected and sanitized before returning to the room.
  3. Area is fogged An EPA registered ‘electrostatic misting’ is sprayed throughout the area. This disinfectant adds another level of cleaning by adhering to surfaces (much like static electricity) and is specially designed to kill COVID-19. Many areas can be fogged, but some cannot if they share an air conditioning unit (or other HVAC systems) with rooms throughout the hospital that are occupied. If a room cannot be fogged, it must remain vacant for at least 72 hours after it is terminally cleaned (to help kill the virus) before it is tested for remaining COVID-19 virus.
  4. Updates are made – If any work needs to be done in the space, such as a new coat of paint or new light fixtures, this is done when the space is clean and empty.
  5. Second terminal cleaning takes place – After the room is cleaned, fogged and fixed up, a second terminal cleaning takes place to make sure the space is pristine for patients and team members.
  6. Area is tested for COVID-19 – Before the area is cleared for patients, it is tested for COVID-19 using a highly reliable set of tests. High touch surfaces, such as door knobs, window ledges and faucet handles are swabbed and sent to the lab. A device is also used to collect samples from the air.
  7. If virus is still present post environmental testing, the team starts again from the top. If test results come back positive for the presence of COVID-19, the process for cleaning starts all over again (area is cleared, terminally cleaned, fogged, terminally cleaned again, and tested again). If the test comes back negative for COVID-19, then, and only then, is the space cleared for patient care.

Hackensack Meridian Health has completed this rigorous cleaning process at all 17 of our hospitals and is holding the same cleaning standards at all care sites, including our urgent care facilities, long-term care facilities and physician practices. Heavy duty cleaning is just one step in the many safety precautions taking place.

“If this pandemic caused you to delay any of your health care needs, you should not delay these needs any longer,” says Daniel Varga, chief physician executive at Hackensack Meridian Health. “If you are hesitant to seek in-person care, please know we are prepared. We have enhanced our processes to protect the safety of our patients, and our team members.”

Resources and Next Steps

  • Learn more about how we are keeping our facilities safe.
  • Was your hospital procedure recently postponed? Here are 5 signs that it’s time to get care now.
  • Hackensack Meridian Health experts that contributed to this article:
    • Daniel Varga, M.D., Chief Physician Executive
    • Donald Ellis, Senior Vice President of Facilities Management and Real Estate
    • Kunle Modupe, Vice President of Hospitality Services
    • Kenneth Haber, Director of Environmental Health & Safety

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.