What Design and Maintenance issues has COVID-19 brought to light in Healthcare Facilities?

by margen, May 11, 2020

by Monica Stoller, May 11, 2020

COVID-19 has brought on needs that we didn’t even think of before it burst onto the scene. The words “social-distancing” didn’t even exist in our world until the beginning of March. During the past few years in healthcare, we have been working so hard to bring families INTO the rooms to help their family members recover more quickly., create spaces where families could congregate and design our facilities to be welcoming and warm.

Who would have thought that we would now be putting stickers on the floor to keep people 6′ apart, not allowing visitors into the waiting or clinical spaces, or needing barriers between the staff and patients to prevent spread of an illness?

That’s our reality now, and our world and workspaces are going to undergo major changes because of it! What are those changes going to look like? How are we going to work with existing space to incorporate those changes? What new products or services are going to be needed in these new or revamped spaces? Can we utilize existing furniture and equipment to accomplish our goals?

These are all good…and difficult questions!

In our world here in NYC we have a problem…and that is the sheer number of people that pass through our healthcare facilities on a daily basis. It’s not hundreds of people, its thousands of people daily. There is very rarely a time I have visited one of our clients facilities when there weren’t packed waiting areas, packed elevators, and long lines. It’s not the fault of the facility, it’s just the fact that we are serving an area with a huge population!

So those are the problems….what are the solutions? I don’t have them all but I have a few ideas on how to implement some of the solutions in the weeks, months and years to come.

  • SIGNAGE – Signage and Way-finding needs to be rethought to make sure areas are clearly marked and patients and visitors can see exactly where they need to go instead of lingering in groups.
  • CONCIERGE SERVICE – If a “concierge” of sort was added at the entrances to assist in way-finding, provide information and assist with questions it would help to make sure the public is aware of the social distancing rules and assist with any problems that may arise.
  • ACRYLIC PARTITIONS – Partitions will need to be installed on information desks, nurses stations, etc… to keep both employees and patients/visitors safe. In the past we have removed them to make the areas more welcoming and we are going to have to design them to continue to be inviting but serve the purpose of separation.
  • INCREASED CLEANING PROTOCOLS – In our company, we provide cleaning services for healthcare facilities, including Upholstery cleaning, carpet cleaning, detailed OR Cleaning and many other surface cleaning services. It is our experience over the last 17 years that cleaning of waiting areas and furniture is almost nonexistent. Some facilities have EVS personnel wipe down the seating and surfaces on a sporadic schedule but it’s not on a regular basis and the staff is not trained on how to do it properly with the correct cleaning materials. This is going to HAVE to change. If the facility is going to rely on in-house staff to do this cleaning they will have to provide in-depth training and have the correct materials and products on hand to use. They will also have to provide supervision to make sure it’s happening. Even better, hire an outside contractor for those specific tasks. We have built our business providing cleaning and consulting to the facilities. It is cost effective and you can be sure it is done thoroughly and professionally on a regular basis.
  • ATTENTION TO DETAIL IN SURFACE CLEANING – Surfaces can be classified as either hard surfaces (e.g., window sills, charting stations and workstations, floors, walls, ceilings) or soft surfaces (e.g., bed linen, upholstery, privacy curtains, apparel). Multiple studies have reported that these surfaces are constantly touched by healthcare workers during patient care, thus becoming potential reservoirs of microbes and spores. Most of these surfaces are not wiped down or cleaned on a regular basis, if ever! This surface cleaning needs to be included in a checklist, specific cleaners identified and protocols followed strictly.
  • IMPERMEABLE MATERIALS – rethink material used in washrooms or locker rooms – partitions and lockers made from phenolic or solid plastic materials, which are impermeable. This makes the washroom or locker room more forgiving should the entire room need to be hosed down with cleaning equipment. Use antimicrobial grab bars and stainless steel soap and paper towel dispensers that can be easily wiped down with surface cleaners.

There are many others that we will have to address in the areas of design, furnishings and maintenance as time goes on. I would love to have your feedback on what you are doing in YOUR facility and what ideas you have for the future!

Feel free to email me at monica@margendesigns.com with your comments. I would like to include them in future posts!

Monica Stoller is one of the principals of Margen Designs, a full-service furniture dealership that provides Healthcare Consulting and Design, Furnishings, and Maintenance Services to the NY/NJ Healthcare Community. Monica has over 30 years of experience in the commercial furnishings, materials and maintenance fields.