I’d like to reassure you, but I’m not that kind of guy

By Steve MacArthur, Hospital Safety Consultant

While I try not to belabor any particular thought or consideration, sometimes what I write about each week is a function of what I’ve encountered (read, seen, etc.) during the previous week. And, if a common theme “bridges” the weeks, sometimes I like to (as they say) strike while the iron is hot.

Soooo…last week we talked a little about the potential impact of rising sea levels on healthcare facilities that are proximal to certain coastal areas, and (lo and behold), there was a piece in the weekly e-mail from Down East magazine that included the link to an article published by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting in their The Maine Monitor (isn’t that a rather circuitous route to identify an information source), that discusses the impact of rising sea levels along the Maine coast (by way of disclosure, Maine is one of my very favorite places).

The article, entitled “The Unstoppable Ocean,” looks at the once and future impact of the ocean on 10 coastal communities, including one community, Damariscotta (I used to spend a portion of the summer in the Damariscotta area when I was growing up) where the rising tides are having an impact on access to the local hospital. It may be somewhat of an extreme case (at least at the moment), but it serves as a good example of the types of things facilities folks may have on their plates (in case responding to pandemics isn’t enough) as we continue our sprint through the roaring 2020s.

In other water-related news (sort of), there was (once again) an excellent piece on the HCInfo website, positing the thought that a water management program is not just a document, a policy, or a binder, but a living, breathing (my words) process to ensure that the risks associated with waterborne pathogens are being appropriately managed. I know that’s not exactly a revelatory thought, but I think it can be easy, sometimes, to fall into the compliance documentation trap of having something pretty to present during survey.

To that end, I am issuing a challenge (as I type this, that seems a tad grandiose, so maybe “I am offering a suggestion for your consideration” is more appropriate)—when you are planning your Utility Systems Management annual evaluation, see if you can come up with a performance indicator that you can use to demonstrate the value of your water management program. I know that it is required from a regulatory perspective, but a fully formed water management program can be a not-inexpensive proposition and it’s tough to use “no cases of legionella” as a convincing case for the process.

I think we can make the case that we’re not going to be receiving any ginormous infusion of resources over the next little while so if we can identify a goal or algorithm, that can make it clear to organizational leadership that this is a worthy investment beyond the baseline compliance game. Utility systems tend not to be inexpensive things to inspect, test and maintain (ITM)—there are lots of moving pieces and, for all intents and purposes, utility systems of some stripe occupy every cubic foot of your building.

Coming up with a way to demonstrate the “value” of an effective ITM process for any (and every) utility system makes a great deal of sense, if only as a means of educating leaders—and end users.

About the Author: Steve MacArthur is a safety consultant with Chartis Clinical Quality Solutions (formerly known as The Greeley Company) in Danvers, Mass. He brings more than 30 years of healthcare management and consulting experience to his work with hospitals, physician offices, and ambulatory care facilities across the country. He is the author of HCPro's Hospital Safety Director's Handbook and is contributing editor for Healthcare Safety Leader. Contact Steve at stevemacsafetyspace@gmail.com.