Winter Preparedness for Hospitals: Essential Steps for Safety

Winter can create many challenges to consumers and companies alike. For hospitals, it’s critical to anticipate these challenges and take proactive measures to overcome them. Now is the ideal time for hospitals to conduct facility maintenance and ensure supplies and emergency equipment are ready for winter.

Fall and winter challenges for hospitals

Fall and winter are known for an uptick in illness, so it’s imperative that hospitals prepare for the change in seasons. Cold and flu viruses become most common December through February, but they begin to make their appearance in October and continue to affect some people into May, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While cold and flu season hasn’t reached full force for the year, it has already begun to make its mark. As of the first week of October, 40 states, the District of Columbia and Guam all reported some level of flu virus activity. Just 10 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands haven’t experienced flu yet.

Another significant challenge hospitals face during winter is inclement weather. Icy roads and whiteout conditions can make sick or injured patients’ journeys to the hospital difficult. It’s especially important that healthcare facility management take measures to ensure that the people who need care are able to access their local hospitals or urgent care centers.

Receiving bays

The receiving bay is one of the most critical areas of a hospital. This is where patients arrive to be treated, and in some cases, urgency and efficiency is vitally important. As such, hospital managers must regularly ensure their receiving bays are in top condition and can handle incoming patients with ease. For urgent cares and pharmacies, a receiving bay is used for incoming medicines and supplies.

In either case, the receiving bay should be weather-resistant, according to Management Sciences for Health. This means the building envelope must be sturdy and kept in good condition. The doors should be functional and properly weatherproofed. Automatic doors are helpful, particularly when receiving patients in critical conditions. When automatic doors are included in bays, it’s important to periodically inspect and repair the sensors as needed.

Backup generators

When snow and ice storms threaten, there’s always a possibility of a power outage. While at home or in a retail store, an outage might be a mere inconvenience; the event can be much more damaging at a hospital. Patients sometimes rely on machines to keep them healthy, stable or to manage pain. Similarly, surgeons require proper lighting and other equipment to do their jobs effectively.

To keep things running efficiently, even when poor weather takes its toll, hospitals must have backup generators at the ready. When storms head toward hospitals, generators are often one of the first things that are reviewed. Keeping backup generators in good condition at the beginning of the season can help make poor weather preparations go more smoothly later on.

Interior doorways

Hospitals are complex facilities with many wings dedicated to specific conditions; there’s a wing for new mothers, another for cancer patients and another for the most critically ill. Doorways keep these areas separated, not only to indicate a new wing but also to prevent the spread of disease from one section of the hospital to another.

Hospital doorways must be operational and sanitary.Doorways between hospital wings help prevent the spread of diseases.

Healthcare-associated infections, or those contracted while at a healthcare facility, are a persistent problem that doctors, nurses and other personnel must do their best to prevent. In 2011, there were nearly 722,000 HAIs in acute care hospitals, according to a 2014 report published by the New England Journal of Medicine.

There are a number of actions hospital management can take to prevent HAIs from spreading throughout their facilities, and many of them begin with interior doorways. Doors must be airtight, particularly in isolation rooms. When airflow between wings is a safety hazard, pressurized doorways that prevent dust, debris or airborne pathogens from traveling through the entrance can help.

However, it’s important that hospital staff know how to properly use specialty doors; they should never be propped open. Additionally, they must be installed properly. Incorrect installation could actually make matters worse by sucking contaminated air into a clean room rather than pushing it away.

One of the most common ways HAIs are spread is through touching doorknobs or handles. Using automatic specialty doors eliminates the need to use one’s own hands to walk from one room to another, thus decreasing the chances of HAIs.

Now is the time for hospitals to prepare for the challenges of winter. If your healthcare facility needs an equipment upgrade or would like to conduct proactive maintenance to make sure everything is adequately prepared, reach out to Miner.