FILE - Janitorial staff wear hazmat suits while cleaning.

The head of the Janitorial Association of Trinidad and Tobago (JATT), Paul Duncan, says it is critical that health care organisations activate extremely stringent and robust cleaning protocols, to help reduce the transmission of COVID-19.

Mr Duncan is concerned that while significant attention has been placed on the need to be vaccinated, very little has been said about the increase in the rate of infections, despite vaccinations, the State of Emergency and lockdowns.

The JATT founder and president points to articles and guidance from the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) on the issue, which state that “to be effective, environmental cleaning activities must be implemented within the framework of a facility’s Infection Prevention Control (IPC) Program”.

“It further stated that seven out of every 100 persons visiting a healthcare facility are infected,” Paul Duncan observes.  “It is very interesting to note that despite all the measures adopted by the Government, the rate of infection continues to climb.  It is obvious therefore, that this COVID-19 virus is able to survive for months on environmental surfaces and has proven to be   much more intelligent than its predecessors.  Hence, the observance and importance of Protocols in carrying out the critical functions of cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting in keeping with Infection Prevention Control (IPC).” 

He added: “Significant consideration must be given to Cleaners and Cleaning Companies as necessary frontline workers in this fight against COVID-19.  We must no longer cast a blind eye on the significant role that cleaners play in curbing the spread of this pandemic.  Cleaners are some of the most important persons in our communities and for far too long, they have been placed on the ‘back-burner’.  Instead, we must have them trained in IPC, educate them in the different types of cleaning through standardized Procedures and of course, certify and recognize them.” 

Paul Duncan says the three Ws—wash your hands, wear your mask, and watch your distance—are not enough, given the high infection rates in our country. 

“Apart from the avoidance of becoming infected ourselves, we need to treat the areas that can cause these infections.  We need to get aggressive with our high–touch areas and win the battle against this dreaded virus,” he argues. 

The JATT president recommends that all health-care institutions adopt a stringent and robust approach to cleaning, to prevent the rate of infection of Healthcare-Associated Infections (HAI). 

“Environmental contamination in healthcare and other settings play a role in the transmission of HAIs and other forms of infections. It is a multifaceted intervention that involves cleaning and disinfection of the environment alongside other key programs, such as vaccinations, that constitute the war on this virus,” he says.

A robust cleaning policy, Mr Duncan says, would include: a cleaning manual outlining protocols and procedures; a cleaning committee at the organisation; managers whose sole responsibility would be proper implementation of the IPC protocols and procedures in the healthcare system.