Patient safety is always a concern for hospital staff. Using equipment that ensures proper medication is administered and vital signs stay normal are all ways hospitals keep patients safe.

Saint Mary’s Regional Health System takes safety concerns seriously and is doing everything it can to make sure patients receive great care in a clean environment.

“I think a lot of times, individuals perceive that clutter equals dirt,” Monica Baxter, Saint Mary’s infection preventionist, said. “They may see a cart in the hallway and might subconsciously think that it’s dirty, plus we’re an older building … but we have

[proof] that we’re doing the right stuff.”

Saint Mary’s is one of three hospitals in the state to receive an “A” ranking for Spring 2013 in a hospital safety score administered by The Leapfrog Group.

The hospital is also the only one in the state to be quoted in the Joint Commission’s Implementation Guide for Reduction of Surgical Site Infections, and one of 17 hospitals in the U.S. to be highlighted for “best practice.”

“By making sure that we have a safer environment for our patients, they’ll be less likely to get an infection,” Baxter said.

The infection control department of Saint Mary’s has teamed up with environmental services to do spot testing in random areas. Baxter said this testing is intended to make sure rooms and equipment are disinfected, not just visibly clean.

“Every biological cell has the same energy source,” Baxter said. “It’s called Adenosine Tri-Phosphate (ATP). I actually have this monitor that gives us a numerical value of ATP.”

Baxter goes into rooms and tests for levels of ATP on common surfaces. She makes sure to check surfaces the nurses and patients will come in contact with regularly such as tables, phones and call lines.

“By using that monitor, it gives us a numerical value of biological contamination,” Baxter said. “It gives us a marker for, ‘Is it clean or not?’”

Baxter said this is a very new process and very few hospitals in the state are doing this.

“We actually do over 200 tests a month. They’re done in random intervals, could be day shift or night shift in any unit. Housekeeping doesn’t know where I’m going to go,” Baxter said.

Despite the element of surprise, Baxter said housekeeping has done an amazing job.

“This technology is so new that there isn’t really any benchmark set by anyone like the CDC,” Baxter said. “There are some companies that do housekeeping for hospitals that spot check, and we far exceed their standards.”

Baxter said Saint Mary’s has a lower benchmark for failure and a higher benchmark for passing than those companies have.

“We’re doing excellent. Housekeeping has been working really hard, and I just want to sing their praises,” Baxter said.

Baxter said the efforts of infection control would not be possible without the hard work of the housekeeping staff.

“A lot of people don’t really think of housekeeping as part of the health care team, but I wouldn’t want to be in a hospital that didn’t have it,” Baxter said.