We often hear about the very large number of patients dying of hospital-acquired infections in hospitals each year, but recently I learned that a very large number of people also die of facility-acquired infections in long-term-care facilities (LTCs). It is estimated that in the United States, from 350,000 to 400,000 people living in LTCs die each year.*
What really upsets me about this is that it is a preventable problem and that our industry can play a major role in ending these needless deaths each year…if they are allowed to do so. The problem, as I see it, is that the cleaning professionals maintaining LTC facilities likely know how to clean them to reduce disease and infection, but the facility owners and/or building managers do not or cannot spend the money necessary for these facilities to be adequately and properly cleaned.
In many cases, the root cause of this funding problem is the inability of patients, families, insurance companies, or Medicaid/Medicare to help cover the costs for proper and adequate maintenance. In a sense, this makes us all responsible for the situation.
The solution, however, is rather straightforward. We need adequate maintenance funding for these facilities. This will help pay for more staff, more cleaning professionals, more effective tools and equipment, and more environmental services technicians to help ensure that LTCs are cleaned properly and effectively…enough to help stop or minimize the spread of infection and reduce these unnecessary deaths considerably.
This can be rectified. It will cost money, but what we are doing now is simply letting people die, and that—in my view, and I trust in yours—is inexcusable.
Stephen P. Ashkin is president of The Ashkin Group, a consulting firm specializing in Greening the cleaning industry, and CEO of Sustainability Dashboard Tools, which offers a cloud-based dashboard that allows organizations to measure, report and improve their sustainability efforts. He is also coauthor of both The Business of Green Cleaning and Green Cleaning for Dummies