Hospitals replace crappy bed pan disinfectors

'Visible fecal soil' left behind too often, audit finds

A bed pan is put in a disinfecting machine similar to the type that is now being installed in Lower Mainland hospitals.

New disinfector units to clean soiled bed pans are being installed at Lower Mainland hospitals after an audit determined the old system wasn’t adequately removing human waste.

The 16-month investigation initiated by the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority resulted in 131 machines being replaced at hospitals in that region and another 61 at hospitals in the Fraser Health region.

The probe had found the old decontaminators, many of which were relatively new and still under warranty, failed between seven and 33 per cent of the time, often leaving behind “visible fecal soil.”

A failure rate of five per cent or less was deemed acceptable.

New German-made Meiko decontaminator machines are replacing the faulty ones at an estimated cost of $2.55 million, Fraser Health spokesman Roy Thorpe-Dorward said.

He said Fraser hospitals use a combination of bed pan disinfectors – where pans along with their full contents are put in machines similar to dishwashers – and disposable bed pans.

The Vancouver Coastal study found the failures in the bed pan cleaning process were due to a combination of machine design flaws and human error, such as incorrect machine loading or failing to check levels of detergent and rinse agent.

“Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health have taken a number of steps to resolve this issue, including the replacement of ineffective equipment, better staff education, fixing design flaws and increasing inspections,” Thorpe-Dorward said.

The audit also found plastic bed pans cleaned better than stainless steel ones.

Vancouver Coastal tackled the dirty bed pan issue in an attempt to reduce the risk of C-difficile infections in hospitals, and published its findings last fall in the American Journal of Infection Control.