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Infection control forms the foundation of St. Michael’s redevelopment project

Toronto, March 12, 2015

By Kate Manicom

Bill Verhoog secures protective hoarding on 2 Shuter
Bondfield Construction’s senior site superintendent Bill Verhoog secures protective hoarding on 2 Shuter. Inside the plastic hoarding, a negative air machine runs to contain mold, dust and other particles within the construction zone. (Photo by Katie Cooper)

Blueprints, building permits and bricks and mortar are what come to mind when thinking of construction, but in hospitals infection prevention is the critical first step in any renovation project. To keep patients, visitors and staff safe during St. Michael’s 3.0 redevelopment project, the hospital’s Infection Prevention and Control team is working with Bondfield Construction to educate its crew about the risks building can pose in a hospital setting and how to prevent them.

“Construction can cause fungal spores, bacteria or other micro-organisms that are found in dust or standing water to become airborne, resulting in illnesses such as Aspergillus infections or Legionnaire’s disease,” explained Kasey Gambeta, a St. Michael’s infection preventionist. “The hospital sees many patients who are susceptible to infection, so specific safeguards need to be in place to protect them when construction activities occur.”

St. Michael’s IPAC team has developed an in-class education program for all construction workers who will be on site to build the Peter Gilgan Patient Care Tower and renovate the existing hospital space. The session takes approximately one hour and teaches which patients are most vulnerable to infection and what safeguards need to be in place to protect them.

“The program shows workers how to do a risk assessment based on the patients who are in the vicinity and the type of work being done,” said Gambeta. “The high-risk areas are where we see patients who are undergoing chemotherapy or dialysis, are immunocompromised, such as those with HIV or AIDS, and are either very young or old. Construction near these areas requires the strictest protocols, including measures like building a clean ante-room that contains a HEPA filter vacuum to ensure all workers are dust free when they exit the contained area.”

The IPAC team also consults with Bondfield as they set up necessary safeguards like hoarding and negative air machines, and will audit these systems at random for the duration of the project.

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To date, 20 Bondfield workers have taken the IPAC education course, but it’s expected more than 200 will go through the program as construction continues.

Bill Verhoog, Bondfield Construction’s senior site superintendent, has worked on several health-care projects and said the training is crucial for his crew.

“Infection control is what sets hospitals apart from all other projects,” said Verhoog. “It’s our top priority.”

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.