The words ‘sluice room’ will not conjure up many pretty pictures, if any, but arguably a sluice room is pretty important, among the most in any facility where they are found.
Also known in some places as the ‘dirty utility room’, they are not unlike their domestic counterpart in that some items enter dirty and come out clean, but really clean. The twist is of course, this ‘dirt’ is different!
We are all more keenly aware these days of the need to be clean; washing hands while singing Happy Birthday; hand-gelling on entering and shop or business; wiping down surfaces at home with antibacterial or alcohol-based solutions. In places where sluice rooms are found – hospitals and hospices primarily, but also nursing homes, blood banks, nursing homes and treatment centres to name but a few – then we are talking super clean.
Superbugs and AMR
While there are bacteria everywhere and a lot of good bacteria, places like hospitals, where there are a lot of sick people, it can be a bad bacteria ‘superbugging’ party especially with the rise of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).
We’ve all heard of the very dangerous Clostridium difficile or C.diff, but Klebsiella pneumoniae is probably the leader of the gang. According to the World Health Organisation it’s only one of 12 antibiotic-resistant “priority pathogens” listed as posing a significant threat to human health.
Like many bacteria Klebsiella is common in human intestines, where it is harmless, but if it spreads to the bloodstream or respiratory system it can cause infections that are nearly impossible to treat. C. diff also poses no health risk to healthy people. But in hospital that is of course different. These and other highly resistant bacteria are the primary spreaders between patients treated in the same hospital.
One of the scientific co-authors of a report in Nature Microbiology Journal in July 2019 into AMR told the Daily Telegraph at the time: “We are optimistic that with good hospital hygiene… we can not only delay the spread of these pathogens, but also successfully control them.”
A colleague also said: “…infection control within hospitals is going to be really key for controlling these highly resistant bacteria.”
The Sluice Room
A sluice room therefore is a closed area where infection can be stopped, dead. They are specifically designed for the disposal of human waste products – urine, vomit, blood, faecal matter, sputum – in pulp products by maceration, which can be infectious, alongside the disinfection of anything that has been contaminated to avoid cross infection.
As can be imagined too, they are busy places with healthcare professionals needing to discard disposable products, like bedpans and wipes; and to disinfect or sterilise reusable items and medical and surgical equipment.
If the product (eg: vomit bowl) isn’t reusable it will need to be safely discarded and the same is true for single-use products (eg: incontinence pads). They can’t just be tossed in the bin because of the health risk that they pose. If the item is to be reused then there also needs to be a place to wash them by hand or better still in specialist equipment.
Design out the Danger
Given the human traffic in a sluice room it’s crucial that it is well designed and equipped to avoid collision and to maximise efficiency and hygiene eliminating bad bacterial bridgeways. It is sluicing only that should take place in this space and such a room needs to be close enough to wards or bedrooms avoiding communal or kitchen areas.
Often a sluice room will be divided into two areas, clean activities and dirty ones. Even putting a dirty item on the wrong surface can result in bacterial transference where they can spore thus putting others at risk of infection.
New and cleaned products will be stored in a clean area to avoid contamination before use while the dirty work has its own designated area for the likes of macerators, washers and flusher disinfectors.
Flusher disinfectors come in one of three models; wall-mounted to allow under floor cleaning; freestanding to provide correct loading height, and under the table to free up workspace.
There needs to be adequate hand washing stations because clean and disinfected items should never be touched with unclean hands. In turn it means that healthcare professionals should always follow all guidelines from disposal to effective hand and arm washing, as well as the cleaning and disinfecting of the sluice room itself. All are crucial procedures to make sure that the environment is safe and free from infection.
If people were unaware before, we have seen in the last year just how rapidly infection can spread if given the chance. With many years of experience in designing rooms where cleanliness is paramount, Liver Laundry can advise on all your requirements from the right equipment to planning the space itself and support you afterwards.