Whenever the topic of healthcare hits the headlines, it is usually to tell us of another hardship facing the NHS. Whether it’s the 54,760 staff shortfall for hospitals in England, or problems with a lack of funding, there seems to be no end to the amount of issues our healthcare service has to face every day. But one of the most important factors that affects hospitals, patients, and healthcare in general every single day isn’t just money or time. It’s the very air around us.
Air quality and temperature control in healthcare is important for both staff and patients. It extends to both simple comfort and vital safety. For example, with patients in hospital often being more vulnerable to disease, the last thing that hospitals want is for an airborne disease to build in the air in wards. Thus, ventilation and ventilation management are crucial for patient safety.
This article explores some of the most important aspects of temperature and air quality control for the healthcare sector.
Patient comfort and care
At a basic level, the temperature control of a hospital directly links to patient comfort. This was highlighted during an incident in March 2018 when a faulty air conditioning unit led to a dramatic drop in temperature for a maternity ward in Kent. The temperature dropped low enough to risk hypothermia for the babies in the ward.
Cold temperatures were not the only problem the hospital faced due to issues with temperature control. Both patients and staff complained throughout the year of problem temperatures, from 33°C in the labour and maternity ward in the summer, to being unbearably cold in the winter. With a proper investment in effective HVAC systems and temperature sensors, a comfortable level can be maintained.
Risk of disease
Of course, patient comfort isn’t the only potential impact of poor temperature control. As many of us know, bacteria and fungi thrive in overly-warm conditions, and can spread quickly in unventilated rooms. By carefully monitoring temperature and humidity, the risk of airborne diseases spreading can be reduced significantly. According to an article by Rotronic UK, the recommended room temperature for hospitals in the summer is between 23°C and 27°C, while in the winter it is recommended to keep the temperatures slightly lower with a guide range of 24°C to 26°C. Humidity-wise, the report recommends 50-60%rh throughout the hospital.
To put these temperatures and humidity recommendations into practice, Dr Jeremy Wingate advises that the survival rate of influenza is at its lowest at a temperature of 21°C and a relative humidity of 40%rh – 60%rh. He advises that temperatures above 24°C seem to decrease the survival of many airborne bacteria. Meanwhile, air-handling units reduced the concentration of airborne fungi, but natural ventilation increased it.
Air quality and ventilation systems can be used to contain and control airborne germs and diseases. Medical Xpress noted the current practice of some hospitals involves using negative pressure rooms to treat infected patients, with ventilation rooms that keep the air from these rooms from getting out to the rest of the hospital.
By reducing the air supply into the ward containing patients infected with an airborne disease, and pumping air out at maximum, a negative pressure forms in the rooms. This means when a door is opened, air rushes into the room, but not out. This keeps the germ-filled air trapped in the wards with the infected patients, rather than allowing it out to spread through the building.
As we can see, temperature, air quality, and ventilation control are incredibly important for the healthcare sector. For an industry already facing so many issues, poor air conditioning and humidity levels shouldn’t have to be suffered; they can be easily dealt with a quality air conditioning system to keep patients comfortable and protected.