Hospital construction is unique to the construction industry in that the vast majority of addition and renovation projects are done in fully functioning facilities. Whereas an office building, parking garage, or even a home may be able to shut down for weeks or months while construction is completed, this is virtually impossible for hospitals due to patient needs. Because of this, hospital contractors need to be trained in what it means to work in a hospital, namely building their construction plans with patient needs as a top priority.
Planning for Patients
A typical contractor project may have schedule or budget as the top concern and the center around which every step orbits. For a hospital project, patient safety will always come first, even if that means delays or alterations to the budget. In order to address concerns of patient safety, contractors must ensure that each part of the project plan keeps patient safety in mind. The best way to do this is to plan every hospital construction project in as much detail - and as far in advance - as possible. This not only gives hospital personnel the chance to ask any questions and point out any potential roadblocks, but also for them to communicate issues within the hospital, to move patients if necessary, and to make backup plans for that time period.
Infection Control is a Top Priority
An integral part of patient safety is infection control, which starts with keeping current patients (as well as staff and visitors) safe from the dust, debris, and potentially hazardous fungal spores that are stirred by construction projects. Dust containment measures, including negative air machines and HEPA filtration, should be taken in order to keep this debris out of occupied areas of the hospital.
However, this is not where infection control ends. Renovated and newly constructed hospital additions are destined for eventual occupation as well. This means that contractors should leave these spaces, particularly hidden areas like above ceiling tiles, as clean as possible to prevent any future issues.
The American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE) Infection Control Risk Assessment Matrix is a critical tool when it comes to planning for infection control. It allows contractors to quickly assess what types of precautions are necessary by aligning the level of patient risk with the level of construction project infection potential.
In any construction project, communication is critical. Things can get more complicated in a hospital project because there are many stakeholders that are dedicated to caring for the hospital's patients and must clearly understand and sign off on each step of the construction. Some contractors may find it useful to hire a dedicated hospital liaison to ensure that everyone's needs are clear and being taken care of.
Comfort is Still Important
Even if every precaution is taken to keep patients safe and healthy, there is still the issue of patient comfort. Construction projects can be extremely loud and violent, causing frequent jolts of movement and noise. It can be difficult to minimize these types of disruptions, but the better contractors understand patient needs, as well as how they differ in various parts of the hospital, the better they can plan around them.
Professional Training is Available
For contractors that are new to hospital projects, or who want to expand their business in the healthcare arena, a dedicated training course may be the best choice. ASHE offers professional courses for contractors on a range of topics, with an emphasis on patient safety and the unique challenges of hospital construction projects. Be sure to visit their website to find available courses that may help you learn more about hospital construction and patient safety.