I read with considerable interest Howard McKew’s January 2011 “Tomorrow’s Environment” column in Engineered Systemsand his involvement in HAIF. He is absolutely correct, more must be done to reduce the staggering number of preventable deaths caused by hospital acquired infections. I became intensely aware of the daily operations of certain hospitals three years ago while visiting my wife during her extended stay (3 to 4 weeks) in three different medical institutions. Howard and his team have a daunting task ahead of them, a task that must include awareness by all parties involved, identification of the diseases and their causes, and a commitment to create solutions. It really is not all about money, it is about saving lives.

One suggestion I have is to compile a complete list of the diseases, their causes, and how they are spread. Any manufacture worth their salt should jump on the chance to improve their product if they are provided with the facts. Hospitals have a great deal of in house procedural changes to make in concert with HVAC and architectural changes.

You can create a clean room atmosphere and have the smoothest, dust-free surfaces within a room, but if visitors bring in germs off the street or if maintenance personnel perform normal chores wearing the same uniforms they wear in the boiler room or the garage, then there is no way you can accomplish your goal. I once knew of a college laboratory designed to maintain pressure differences between the labs and the corridors. Then the professor in charge stated, after the fact, that no one was going to tell him to keep the lab doors closed. You can design the best using the latest but you cannot ignore the human factor.

I learned that the illness that could have been fatal to my wife (she is doing just fine now) was caused by the antibiotics she was taking and was not an HAI. However the experience opened my eyes to what can and does occur in hospitals. You have heard of the challenge, DBMPBMS (don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions). Extend that challenge to any and all disciplines that can bring you solutions, but they have to know what it is they are dealing with first.

Paul Coward
Coward Environmental Systems, Inc.
Oxford, CT