Ready Safe Go: How Environmental Services Keeps You Safe

Cleaning a hospital room, clinic exam room or operating room isn’t as simple as wiping down surfaces and emptying the trash. It takes extensive expertise, as well as some innovative technology, to make sure medical facilities are free of harmful viruses and bacteria.

At Memorial Health System, those crucial services are performed by members of the Environmental Services (EVS) team, who undergo complex, comprehensive training and continuing education.

“Some people might think of Environmental Services as janitors,” said Gabe Ceperich, director, Environmental Services. “But we’re so much more than that. We’re on the front lines of protecting our patients, our colleagues and our community from illnesses like COVID-19 here in the healthcare setting.”

In 2018, the EVS team at Memorial Medical Center in Springfield was named the top Environmental Services department in 500-plus-bed hospitals nationwide by the Association for the Health Care Environment of the American Hospital Association. That honor recognized their high performance, rigorous training and commitment to environmental sustainability. EVS departments at the other MHS affiliate hospitals have also received top honors, including a Hero for Zero award honoring the Taylorville Memorial Hospital EVS team for contributing to zero C. diff infections at the hospital in 2018.

As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, that team—alongside their colleagues at all MHS affiliates—came together to ensure that patients and colleagues were safe throughout the health system. That included using some state-of-the-art technology.

In March, EVS at MMC and TMH began using the Clorox 360 Electrostatic Sprayer. MHS is the first health system in the state to use these devices, and MMC EVS staff even had the opportunity to demo them and provide feedback for the manufacturer last year before they reached the market. An electrostatic sprayer uses electric charges to spread germicidal cleaning solution 100 percent evenly and much more quickly than typical devices. It can cover 18,000 square feet in a single hour.

EVS teams at MMC, Passavant Area Hospital and Decatur Memorial Hospital also use ultraviolet technology to disinfect high-risk areas like operating rooms or patient rooms that have been occupied by someone with a highly infectious illness like C.diff.

“It’s basically a big ultraviolet light bulb on wheels,” Ceperich said of MMC’s Tru-D UV Light Disinfection device, which has been in use for more than 10 years. “It will not shut off until it’s eradicated all pathogens in that room.”

MHS EVS teams have also recently begun using a new “safe bleach” that eliminates pathogens without harming surfaces, as well as disposable mops and towels that reduce the risk of cross-contamination.

Early in the year, before the pandemic began to seriously affect the United States, Ceperich and other leaders acted quickly to ensure MHS had enough cleaning and disinfecting supplies on hand should COVID-19 outbreaks occur in central Illinois. That foresight paid off, as Memorial has not suffered from the severe shortages affecting some other healthcare organizations.

“We still have a lot to learn about COVID-19,” Ceperich said. “But our past experience with other pathogens has prepared us to fight it.”