Kathy Rich, Housekeeping Supervisor, and Jonathan Wright, Director of Environmental Services, sanitizing a patient room.

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Keeping a Cancer Center Safe and Clean

The COVID-19 pandemic has put a bigger focus on germs and illnesses than ever before. But, as a dedicated cancer center, minimizing our patients’ exposure to bacteria, viruses, and other microbes has always been part of our standard operating procedure. And, during the current public health crisis, our environmental services (EVS) team is trialing innovative methods to do more.

“Our number one mission is to make sure our patients are safe,” said Jonathan Wright, Director of EVS at Fox Chase. “We also need to make sure our clinicians and staff are safe so that they can continue to treat patients.”

Advanced Technologies

To do this, our EVS team follows strict procedures and consistently introduces new technologies and cleaning methods to our existing protocols.

“Our cleaning program involves multiple steps that have proven quite successful,” Wright said. “In addition to our standard disinfecting procedures, we employ added layers of protection for the deepest—and longest-lasting—clean.”

These include:

  • Dry steam technology: Some cleaning chemicals leave behind a residue that can act as food for viruses, Wright explained. After applying disinfecting chemicals to surfaces at Fox Chase, we get rid of the residue by applying high-concentration steam.
  • Electrostatic disinfection: To destroy any lingering microbes, we apply a high-tech disinfecting mist that electrocutes any remaining germs. “If the cleaner missed something, the electrostatic chemicals will take care of that area,” Wright said.
  • ATP testing: Along with regular cleaning with various protocols, we regularly measure the number of germs on surfaces to see which areas need to be cleaned more heavily or frequently. “We use that data to give us perspective in terms of how effective our current protocols are,” Wright explained.

The Future of Cleaning

Other advanced cleaning technologies are coming to Fox Chase soon. Wright and his team have been piloting the use of the BIOPROTECTUs™ system, which is designed to keep surfaces free of germs for up to 90 days.

“It’s a game-changer,” he said. “We’ve been using it throughout the hospital in trials and have found our infection rates are even lower than before.”

Traditional wet disinfectants only prevent the growth of germs for a few minutes (until the cleaner dries), but the BIOPROTECTUs™ system works differently.

“It uses an oxidizing cleaner, which doesn’t allow any microbes that require oxygen to grow on surfaces where it’s used,” Wright said. “Then we apply a surface protectant, which seals up pores so dirt and grime can’t penetrate them.”

Fox Chase will also be getting ultraviolet disinfecting units soon. These advanced machines emit artificial UV light that works to deactivate germs and bacteria.

“This cleaning method is effective at killing microbes like Clostridium difficile (C. Diff.), which have a protective wall,” Wright said. “We plan to deploy them in operating rooms, inpatient units, therapy areas, and the infusion room.”

COVID-19 Protocols

While these technologies and the other cleaning products we use are key components in keeping our facilities clean and safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, Fox Chase’s screening procedures, PPE protocols and no-visitor policy also play important roles.

“Our staff is wearing appropriate PPE—masks, gloves, gowns, and more —and we’re washing our hands, changing our gloves, and changing PPE as we move from one room to another so that we’re walking in clean to the next patient,” said Kathy Rich, Housekeeping Supervisor at Fox Chase.

Together, these measures are making a difference in keeping COVID-19 out of our center.

“We’re doing our best to control the environment at Fox Chase, and the infection-control numbers verify we’re doing a great job,” Wright said. “Patients at Fox Chase can feel very safe.”

Learn more about coronavirus precautions at Fox Chase