The clean solution

Bedpans: hotbeds of infection?

Cleaning and disinfecting bedpans

Hygienic cleaning of bedpans and urine bottles is of utmost importance but it is often undervalued. Dutch hygiene specialist Kim Helgering gets to grips with the situation.

For her final dissertation at the Wenckebach Institute at University Medical Center Groningen, Kim Helgering chose to write about ‘Cleaning and disinfecting bedpans and urine bottles using washer-disinfectors in hospitals.’ So why did she pick this subject? ‘There were indications that patients who use improperly cleaned and disinfected bedpans/urine bottles are potentially at risk of infection. I was also interested in the uncertainty regarding the legal requirements that apply to the use of washer-disinfectors in healthcare facilities,’ Kim Helgering explains.

A hygiene specialist from the Netherlands enquires

As Ms Helgering herself says, she was keen to investigate whether the measures taken by Dutch hospitals to clean and disinfect bedpans and urine bottles using washer-disinfectors are sufficient to guarantee the level of quality required to offer a responsible level of care. She therefore interviewed and observed colleagues working in several hospitals.

She then sent written questionnaires to 20 hospitals and visited six hospitals to observe their work and conduct interviews with users and the technical experts employed in the hospitals.
In regard to the current legislative framework, she examined three key topics: 

  • how washer-disinfectors are used in practice,
  • quality issues, and
  • validation and maintenance.

The right technology exists – but there is no major lobby for better handling of patient excreta.

Marcus Danner, Head of Medical Technology Sales for MEIKO Germany

There is definite room for improvement in usage

Kim Helgering’s investigation showed that users frequently operate cleaning and disinfection appliances in sub-optimal ways, with the result that even visual inspections reveal signs of residual soiling on care utensils. Yet, in this situation, only 56% of respondents then take the correct action: cleaning and disinfecting a second time but by hand.

Marcus Danner from MEIKO has this to say: ‘Appliances that are insufficiently or improperly maintained or older washer-disinfectors are prone to delivering reduced cleaning performance. This pain point can only be addressed by raising further awareness of how important it is for care utensils to be properly cleaned. The right technology exists – but there is no major lobby for better handling of patient excreta.’

Pay more attention to your washer-disinfector

Kim Helgering’s conclusion was clear: there is still plenty of potential to improve the quality of cleaning and disinfection using washer-disinfectors. Her observations suggest that the hospitals she visited lack an operational quality system for washer-disinfectors which would cover the proper implementation, observance and evaluation of protocols.

According to Ms Helgering, this contributes to bedpans and urine bottles not being adequately cleaned and disinfected. She therefore makes the following recommendations for washer-disinfectors:

  • Develop strategies and quality systems in hospitals
  • Take a multidisciplinary approach to optimising your processes
  • Use national guidelines as mandatory framework
  • Have the hospital hygiene specialist carry out audits
  • Include washer-disinfectors in the public health authority inspection

If you have questions about cleaning and disinfecting bedpans, urine bottles or other care utensils, please use our contact form.

Get in touch!