We live in a 3-D world…

By Steve MacArthur, Hospital Safety Consultant

...so why do we focus on square footage when assessing compliance?

One of the common themes that’s emerged from our transition into what is presumably going to be a post-COVID world (somehow I still think that we not yet reached the mid-point of the COVID-athon, but perhaps I am being too pessimistic) is the litany of challenges relating to what we’ve required of the physical environment over the past 2-plus years.

The competing priorities engrained in the provision of more negative pressure rooms in various locations—putting up walls, taking down walls, putting them back up again, putting them in a different place (is the day of the completely modular healthcare facility far away?), with the parallel needs of providing access to technology in these newly created (and then newly “abandoned”) spaces have, in a lot of instances, resulted in compliance issues, particularly in the backstage areas (above the ceiling; in mechanical and technology spaces/hubs).

You could have the best-est above the ceiling permitting process going, but if you don’t have the bandwidth to do the follow-up inspections, how do you stay even with the various imperfections that can be found in those areas, never mind stay ahead?

I have a sneaking suspicion, at least in the short term, we’re going to see a spike in the “classic” survey findings relating to penetrations, open junction boxes, stuff on sprinkler pipes, etc.—there’s so much ground to cover, there is almost an inevitability to it all—until we have enough time to catch up on all that activity. And, depending on where you are in the survey cycle, time might not be on your side.

On a somewhat related note (the complexities of the physical environment), I read an interesting analysis of the characteristics of a healthy building. I think we can safely predict that water management and related topics, including indoor air quality, are likely to be in the mix for some time to come.

I know that the incident data in hospitals is small (and it’s not for lack of reporting—it’s not like we can cover up this stuff), which I would intuit as meaning that we are appropriately managing the risks associated with (insert risk here), but that’s never stopped a new focus from generating lots of findings.

As has always been the case, we do not live in a perfect world, nor do we have perfect buildings, but this might help provide you with a context for validating your strategies or requesting additional resources: https://hcinfo.com/blog/what-is-a-truly-healthy-building/.

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 stevemacsafetyspace@gmail.com.