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Improving infection control with St. Michael’s 3.0

Toronto, October 28, 2013

By Patricia Favre

A health care professional at St. Michael’s Hospital washes his hands before interacting with a patient.
A health care professional at St. Michael’s Hospital washes his hands before interacting with a patient. (Photo by Yuri Markarov)

Several infection control features of the new patient care tower, from isolation rooms to a dedicated OR elevator, improved ventilation and new sinks are expected to reduce hospital-acquired infections and improve patient safety.

“St. Michael’s serves vulnerable populations that have a higher chance of bringing in infectious diseases,” said Kasey Gambeta, an infection control professional at the hospital. “On the other hand, we also serve patients with diseases that put them at higher risk of contracting infectious diseases, such as cystic fibrosis patients. It’s important that in designing St. Michael’s 3.0, we come up with an environment that reduces risk – especially the risk of unknown infections.”

Cathy Bidwell, a clinical consultant in the Planning Department, said the following features bundled together will have a positive impact on infection control at the hospital.

  • Increasing the number of sinks and hand sanitizers in St. Michael’s 3.0 will ensure that clinical professionals can clean their hands right at the point of care – reducing the risk of spreading an infection to a patient.
  • Airborne isolation rooms will be built in all inpatient units and outpatient clinics. These rooms will include a ventilation system that generates negative pressure so that air can flow into the isolation room but cannot move out of the room to the hall or surrounding area. This will ensure that isolated patients cannot spread airborne infectious diseases.
  • All ICUs will have three isolation rooms per unit for patients requiring airborne precautions. The remaining ICU beds will be single patient rooms enabling them to be closed for contact precautions when required. Personal protective equipment will be built into alcoves at the entry door to every room.
  • A designated “clean” elevator that will travel directly from the medical device reprocessing department to the sterile core of the new ORs. This will help increase the efficiency of workflow to the ORs and reduce the risk of contamination of sterile surgical instruments.
  • The size of the new ORs will also contribute to better infection control. Larger ORs result in less clutter and are easier to clean.
“As a hospital that is serving more and more patients everyday, we need to ensure that we are meeting the needs of our patients by protecting them from well known infections such as tuberculosis,” said Gambeta. “But we also have to prepare for infections that we don’t know about. We’re confident that many of our recommendations for St. Michael’s 3.0 will contribute to a safer and cleaner environment for our patients.”

One in nine - number of patients who acquire a health care-associated infection in Canada

About St. Michael’s Hospital

St Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the Hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael’s Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.