Hygienically Speaking

Do you want to ensure park and recreation facilities are clean, sanitary and hygienic, helping to prevent the spread of disease? Let’s take a look at how one hospital ward in England and another in Scotland tackled this challenge in their facilities. By reviewing their success and the current industry research, and by implementing the latest cleaning methods, managers can provide sound hygiene for their own facilities.

A Look At The Hospitals

According to a 2004 study, the two hospitals were experiencing unusually high outbreaks of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), among other reported infections. The hospitals eventually concluded that “high standards of ward cleaning” would help stem the outbreaks.

However, instead of taking limited measures–such as using stronger disinfectants and bleach, which have several drawbacks, including harm to the user and the environment–the hospitals decided to substantially increase cleaning durations and frequencies.

Cleaning hours were almost doubled–from 66.5 to 123.5 hours per week–at the 37-bed hospital ward in England. In addition, both hospitals placed a greater emphasis on virtually all cleaning tasks–from vacuuming and dusting to the careful wiping down of all counters, floors and surfaces, including infrequently cleaned surfaces, such as radiators and ventilation grills. The study reported that “increasing the cleaning hours to [almost] double the usual level … finally terminated the [MRSA] outbreak.”

Outbreaks of MRSA at the Scottish hospital were attributed to “sub-optimal cleaning,” the report noted. This ward, which is smaller than the one in England, was cleaned by only one worker for two hours daily. Even for a smaller space, two hours of cleaning by one custodial worker was far from sufficient.

After both facilities implemented a major cleaning program, the MRSA problem–as well as other infections, including nosocomial diseases–declined dramatically. As a result, the study concluded that “in the long term, cost-cutting on cleaning services is neither cost-effective nor common sense.”

Similar studies and conclusions also have been reported. The National Institute of Infectious Disease in Spain found that the understaffing of cleaning workers in its hospitals “increases the risk of patients becoming infected with the Hepatitis C virus.” And in an American hospital, after a seven-year study examined the occurrence of patients becoming sick with a variety of hospital-acquired infections, “there was a substantial decrease when [more aggressive] cleaning was included.”

Is More Cleaning The Answer For Park Facilities?

Increasing cleaning frequency, labor hours and aggressiveness appear to result in cleaner, more hygienic hospitals, but can this same strategy work in park and recreation facilities?

The easy answer is yes. Of course, similar outcomes can be expected as long as the cleaning workers are properly trained and use satisfactory tools, chemicals and equipment. But a big problem for park and recreation facilities in the United States now is the availability of funds to cover the costs of increased cleaning hours.

At a time when the U.S. economy is teetering between recession and depression, state governments–which typically fund most public park and recreation facilities–are facing a horrendous fiscal crisis. At least 47 states have shortfalls in their budgets, ranging from $1 billion to $2 billion in some states to more than $40 billion in California. And these severe fiscal problems are likely to continue into next year as well, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

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