It is now clear that biofilms in drains represent a significant risk in healthcare facilities because they can lead to numerous infections. Despite this awareness, most healthcare facilities are reluctant to invest in preventive and routine drain maintenance, arguing that they cannot afford the costs of treating biofilms in drains. Ironically, preventive drain maintenance costs are only a fraction of what it costs to treat hospital-acquired infections or epidemics. The challenge is therefore to make it clear that while investing in infection prevention will always involve some expense, this small investment will drastically slash the immense direct and indirect costs of dealing with an outbreak for the entire healthcare system.
The vast majority of infection-related costs pertain to longer hospital stays for patients. These costs include:
- Nursing care, treatment and medication
- Isolation measures
- Lab tests
- Additional precautionary measures such as wearing gloves, gowns and masks (PPE)
- Cleaning and disinfection products
- Extra staffing (nurses, doctors, patient care attendants, technicians, maintenance staff, etc.)
Longer hospital stays also create additional indirect costs:
- Lost income from private rooms that need to be used to isolate infected patients: Each closed bed means less revenue because these beds are not available for patients willing to pay for a private room.
- Costs of mobilizing the epidemic management committee: Mobilizing the infection management committee always means multiple meetings that are both costly and time consuming. This translates into overtime costs for committee members as well as lost productivity as these members are less available for other patients.
Investing in the prevention of outbreaks and epidemics simply makes good financial and operational sense. It will help to preserve accessibility to hospital care, prevent long hospital stays, and avoid the exorbitant associated costs for the facility and society as a whole.
Infection prevention strategy
A good infection prevention program should include:
- Specialized cleaning products and equipment
- Preventive cleaning program
- Hand hygiene program
- Staff training
- New furniture free of cracks that can harbour bacteria can greatly lower risks and costs
The cost of treating outbreaks can run in the tens of thousands of dollars per week. Instead of throwing all this money literally out the window, a small fraction of it could be poured preventatively down the drain, where it will go to much better use.