Managing pesky little bug(ger)s…

By Steve MacArthur, Hospital Safety Consultant

...And not just the big buggers that arrive in black helicopters.

At this point, I’m thinking that most of the occupiable spaces in your organization have been reoccupied, but perhaps there are spaces where folks have still been able to work from home and taken full advantage of that “reality.” Or perhaps because of staffing levels, there are patient areas that have been shifted to “stand by” status. But maybe they’re coming back, so the question becomes: How do you make the spaces once more habitable (I’m guessing you haven’t spent a ton of time maintaining those spaces)?

In my travels, all too often I’ve found that some organizations don’t have the most organized approach to bringing unoccupied spaces back online. And it’s just not stuff (including debris) that got left behind—there may be new tenants occupying the space for which their new living arrangements are very much in opposition to your intentions for the spaces in question.

Certainly, there will be some sort of deep-cleaning process (hopefully you’ll get enough lead time to make that happen—but don’t be surprised if you get that Friday afternoon call for a Monday morning opening), but do you have a process for ensuring that pest control is in the mix?

When it comes to pest control, I recognize that surveyors tend to focus on cardboard—and I’ve seen the online pictures of the cardboard critter condos, so I know you can’t ignore them as a possibility—but oftentimes it’s the areas that you can’t “see” as well that becomes problematic. And, as the weather gets a little more palatable for pests (can pests get COVID?), it might be a good opportunity to reach out to your pest control folks for some guidance.

That said, you might find this fact sheet from the Maryland Pesticide Education Network (specifically from their IPM in Health Care Facilities Project: ) to be of interest: The home page has a bunch of other information and resources, so it might be good pre-summah reading (yes, I still live in the Bawston area).

On a somewhat related note (the common thing being bugs/pests, these are just wicked tiny ones), there is an interesting blog/article (blogicle?) in Health Facilities Today that you might find of interest:

Ostensibly, the post concerns itself with what type of surface—porous versus non-porous—has the most effective transmission of yucky stuff, but the concluding question as it relates to “who is responsible for cleaning what?” might be a good discussion point for you as you do rounding. My experience has been that there are certain equipment items or clinical areas that fall into that gray area of not the responsibility of the EVS/housekeeping staff and not really the responsibility of anyone else (medication rooms; crash carts, etc.).

As you might have figured out, those have the tendency to be the areas that get called out during a survey. We know infection prevention and control is going to be a focus of the survey process until everyone within the sound of my voice has retired (plus infinity), so we definitely want to work to minimize risk exposure when it comes to cleaning.

About the Author: Steve MacArthur is a safety consultant with 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