Spending time in a hospital that’s under construction?

The building, expansion and rehab of medical facilities can actually expose patients to hospital-acquired infections.

According to healthline.com, 1.7 million Americans develop these infections per year, and 99,000 people in the U.S. die from them annually. The Indiana/Kentucky/Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters, an affiliate of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, is doing its part to prevent the spread of infections while it's on the job. 

IKORCC, a regional labor union representing more than 32,000 tradespeople in 33 locals in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and parts of West Virginia and Tennessee, does so by promoting the education, training and productivity of working carpenters to minimize hospital-acquired infections.

“Many patients have at-risk immune systems, and patient safety is critically compromised when untrained workers begin construction improperly,” says senior representative Scott Cooley. “If a worker opens up a ceiling or a wall, it can send airborne pathogens and possibly mold into the ventilation system.”

To help ensure the safety of patients, staff, visitors and construction crews in an occupied medical facility, IKORCC members are certified in Infection Control Risk Assessment, or IRCA. To earn the certification, the carpenters receive patient-focused training for working in hospitals and medical facilities, including the types of barriers to put up and how to use negative air pressure to keep disease out of the general hospital environment. They learn how to interact with and work around employees, patients and visitors and acquire skills needed to contain pathogens and protect patients without disrupting operations.

Patricia Mancos, infection control officer for Methodist Hospitals, says ICRA training is a game changer. “The Indiana/Kentucky/Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters provides specialized training on containment and precautions to utilize during construction and renovation activities in health care facilities,” she says. “If not done properly, these activities can expose our patients to construction-related infections.”

Mancos notes that her staff can see the difference in trained contractors. She says they have a good understanding of the negative effect their work could have on patients.

“As an infection preventionist, it is an honor to work with IKORCC,” she says. “Their commitment to training their members (and our hospital staff) is overwhelming. They truly share our passion for keeping patients safe from construction-related infections.”

Adam Fedak, IKORCC business representative and ICRA lead for Northwest Indiana, says that though there are no hard statistics about the number of infections prevented by their effort, the union is serious about its work in and around hospitals. “Our ultimate goal is to do our part and work together to hopefully eliminating hospital-acquired infections due to construction. When we’re working in and around compromised patients, it’s extremely important to know our surroundings and understand patients’ needs,” he notes. “The last thing we’d want is to have a patient go to a hospital and become ill due to something we did.”

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