Over the past couple of years, the world has endured the coronavirus pandemic and has become reawakened to its vulnerabilities, not only to infection and disease but to a drastically changing climate.
The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) has been overburdened by the tremendous number of patients being admitted to hospitals with coronavirus disease. Following the change in nationwide restrictions, the organisation is now working through a backlog of patients with other health concerns.
Strategies for infection prevention and control (such as manual and automated cleaning, along with the wearing of personal protective equipment, PPE) have been critical in combating COVID-19 and other healthcare-acquired infections (HCAIs).
Despite this, re-infection is still occurring (which increases hospital stays) and single-use mask-wearing has contributed to tons of medical waste, of which, both scenarios bear financial and environmental costs. In this post, Test Labs provides a perspective on decontaminating hospitals effectively while decarbonising to safeguard the environment in line with COP26.
What is the COP26 summit?
COP stands for Conference of the Parties and the COP26 Summit has been attended by countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). COP26 is considered to be one of the most important climate conferences of our time, a historic opportunity for the world to take action.
Decisions made at the summit are intended to help the world meet its obligations under the Paris Agreement and keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius as per the commitment made under it. Countries must continue to update Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) in line with the 1.5oC temperature rise limit.
The oil and gas industry, agriculture, transport, and buildings are all major contributors to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. One area that cannot be overlooked is that of healthcare. According to Health Care Without Harm and Arup, if the healthcare sector were a country, it would be the fifth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases (GHGs) on the planet. Test Labs believes that it can help reduce healthcare sector carbon emissions through durable technology and effective decontamination.
Hospitals and Energy Consumption
A recent study draws attention to the main contributors of high energy consumption by hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic: medical equipment usage, power supply, disease control, and air quality (ventilation). Studies suggest that energy consumption for the healthcare sector ranges from 8.9 to 17 MWh/bed, depending on the hospital size according to the annual consumption. This energy expenditure can be exacerbated by an increased hospital stay, rate of hospitalisation, and intensive care unit (ICU) admission.
During the coronavirus pandemic, hospitals have been overwhelmed with patients, and have been increasing energy consumption, along with producing more medical waste. Another recent study provides an estimate that 129 billion face masks and 65 billion gloves are used per month globally.
UK government statistics provide estimates of PPE distributed throughout the country with just under 16.3 million face masks in just over 118 million PPE items being distributed throughout the UK in July 2020 alone. Medical waste including masks and other PPE go to landfills and contribute to microplastic pollution. The production of chemical disinfectants such as ethanol produces GHGs and this chemical has been in greater demand during the pandemic.
Effective decontamination and reuse of masks, surfaces, and other medical equipment can reduce carbon emissions through the reduction of transportation, production, and disposal.
Decarbonisation Through Effective Decontamination and Durable Technology
Test Labs believes that cutting infection rates through effective decontamination could reduce hospital stays, hospital resource use, and, in turn, energy consumption.
Test Labs offers its customers Disinfectant Efficacy Testing that is founded upon the standards developed by the CEN/TC 216. Medical device manufacturers and developers of chemical disinfectants and antiseptics can test the bactericidal, sporicidal, fungicidal, or yeasticidal activity of their products for different applications. Such testing is also now available for automated decontamination systems. To discover more about Test Labs’ testing capabilities, you can visit our services page.
Test Labs believes that effective decontamination of hospital areas, equipment, and PPE can help mitigate the spread of infection, reduce the rate of infections, and so, reduce hospital stays/admission.
Another way that Test Labs can help to provide more environmentally friendly disinfection, is through testing the resilience of medical devices and equipment to chemical disinfectants and detergents, as well as modern decontamination technologies (such as hydrogen peroxide vapour, HPV, and ultraviolet-C, UV-C light). Highly Accelerated Lifecycle Testing (HALT) is employed by Test Labs to test the repeated use of a product over its lifetime and isolate areas of weakness that may be improved to contribute to greater product reliability.
Other tests that Test Labs employs involve the evaluation of the appearance of plastics and coatings, hardness testing, corrosion testing, and more. For a more detailed overview of Test Labs’ testing capabilities and additional services, read about our material compatibility testing service. By working with manufacturers, Test Labs can ensure the establishment of durable technology that lasts, helping hospitals to reduce maintenance costs, reduce waste, and lessen the burden on the supply chain.
Concerning cleaning healthcare environments, Test Labs is actively working with hospitals to curate the best practice method statements and standard operating procedures. Where there is an opportunity to clean with more green cleaning agents, Test Labs intends to work with its customers to select the most appropriate and sustainable agents available.
The healthcare community is a major contributor to GHG emissions and the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the need for a more energy-efficient and cost-saving system for healthcare provision for nations across the globe.
In response to COP26, Test Labs is endeavouring to provide guidance, testing, and hands-on decontamination/disinfection expertise to help hospitals reuse medical equipment and reduce waste, provide cost-effective and durable medical equipment, and efficient decontamination technologies that help reduce infection rates.
This strategy is intended to reduce hospital stays, keep infection at bay, as well as reduce resource use and energy consumption.