Published September 30, 2022
Protecting Patients and the Planet
By Jen Levisen
The COVID pandemic shed light on numerous areas across multiple industries, but none as brightly as infection control in the health care system.
Each year hundreds of millions of people are affected by avoidable Hospital Acquired Infections (HCAIs). Still, even more shockingly, 55% of HCAIs are preventable with the right infection control equipment in place, according to Kwickscreen’s website.
HCAIs are one of the top causes of death in the United States1. It’s estimated that they affect on average one in 31 patients2 and that one in 17 patients die due to HCAIs3, at a cost of $25,0004 per infection.
“COVID highlighted the vital importance of infection control,” says Alan Murrell, CEO of Kwickscreen, a manufacturer of award-winning portable, retractable hospital screens. “When you go to the hospital, you expect you are going into a fully clean space, but that’s just not the case. Most people assume that hospital curtains are changed after every patient, but in some cases the curtain surrounds have been hanging in rooms for over six months.”
Curtains are a standard feature in all wards and healthcare centers. But whether they are linen or disposable, they are difficult to clean and can become rapidly contaminated and act as a dangerous site of infection.
Numerous studies5, 6, 7, 8, 9 have shown that an unsafe volume of infectious bacteria such as MRSA10 can be found on curtains within four weeks of use – including antimicrobial ones11.
One solution to the contamination is disposable curtains but that generates a lot of waste if curtains are changed for every single patient.
If all the hospital curtains in the U.S. were thrown away, approximately 47 million new curtains would be needed each year, creating 43,000 tons of waste in the process12.
STAT: A staggering 9.5 million microscopic plastic fibers are released from washing a 150lb industrial load of curtains13.
Furthermore, detergents used to wash linen curtains usually contain phosphorus and nitrogen compounds, which cause eutrophication in fresh waters and cost the U.S. about $2.2 billion annually to control14.
“Healthcare curtains are designed so that you dispose of them in order to maintain a hygienic environment. However, due to costs and other operating factors, curtains are not changed frequently enough,” said Murrell. “But even if they were, the environmental impact would be even more alarming than it is now.”
Because the screens can be cleaned easily with virtually any standard cleaning product — just three times a week, with 2 wipes per clean — the carbon emission is as little as 0.4 ounces of CO₂. The average carbon footprint for a person in the United States is 16 tons, one of the highest rates in the world.
“Our team of designers and engineers have spent the last 12 years working tirelessly creating our award-winning portable, retractable hospital screens that allow our clients to create flexible, COVID-secure spaces across their health care settings, all while contributing to a greener planet,” said Murrell
“We are committed to reducing the negative impact the healthcare industry has on our environment,”
The latest? KwickScreen engineers have now created a screen that comes all around the bed. It’s used like a curtain but provides the patient a sense of privacy and the feeling of their own space.
“We are committed to reducing the negative impact the healthcare industry has on our environment,” said Murrell. “The COVID pandemic has really driven home the point that spaces need to be flexible with the utmost care paid to hygiene. With our screens and solutions, we’re quickly able to reconfigure whether that be for overflow of patients or the changing needs of a ward.”
1 Calfee, D. (2020). Prevention and Control of HealthCare–Associated Infections. In Goldman-Cecil Medicine. Retrieved from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/nursing-and-health-professions/healthcare-associated-infection
2 Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). HAI Data. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/hai/data/index.html
3 Haque, M., Sartelli, M., McKimm, J., & Abu Bakar, M. (2018). Health care-associated infections - an overview. Infection and drug resistance, 11, 2321–2333. https://doi.org/10.2147/IDR.S177247. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ pmc/articles/PMC6245375/
4 Scott, RD. (2009). The direct medical costs of healthcare-associated infections in U.S. hospitals and the benefits of prevention. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/hai/pdfs/hai/scott_ costpaper.pdf
6 Shek K, Patidar R, Kohja Z, Liu S, Gawaziuk JP, Gawthrop M, Kumar A, and Logsetty S, Rate of contamination of hospital privacy curtains in a burns/plastics ward: A longitudinal study. Am J Infect Control. Vol. 46, No. 9. September 2018
7 Trillis F, Eckstein EC, Budavich R, Pultz MJ, Donskey CJ. Contamination of hospital curtains with healthcare associated pathogens. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 2008 Nov;29(11):1074â1076.
8 Ohl M, et al. Hospital privacy curtains are frequently and rapidly contaminated with potentially pathogenic bacteria. Am J Infect Control. Vol. 40, No. 10. Pages 904-906. December 2012.
9 Bushey MM, Lowdermilk N, et al. Pay Attention to the Microbe Behind the Curtain. Am J Infect Control. Vol. 43, No. 6; Supplement 2. Pages S41-S42. June 2015.
11 Chemaly, R. F., Simmons, S., Dale, C., Jr, Ghantoji, S. S., Rodriguez, M., Gubb, J., Stachowiak, J., & Stibich, M. (2014). The role of the healthcare environment in the spread of multidrug-resistant organisms: update on current best practices for containment. Therapeutic advances in infectious disease, 2(3-4), 79–90. https://doi.org/10.1177/2049936114543287
12 Fast Facts on US hospitals 2022. Retried from: https://www.aha.org/statistics/fast-facts-us-hospitals
13 Oxwash (2021). The Oxwash Sustainability Report (2021). Retrieved from: https://www.oxwash.com/sustainability
14 Chislock, M. F., Doster, E., Zitomer, R. A., & Wilson, A. E. (2013). Eutrophication: causes, consequences, and controls in aquatic ecosystems. Nature Education Knowledge, 4(4), 10.