Hospitals play an important role in our society i.e. to ensure good health and vitality of the members of the community. The bad air quality in hospitals, however, can unexpectedly lead to new illnesses and poor health of the visitors and patients.
While air pollution is a serious problem in developing countries, it gains even more importance in healthcare settings. In major Indian cities, such as Delhi, the air quality is quite pronounced and its effects disturbing. Everyone remembers the dreadful incident in November 2017, famously known as Great smog of Delhi, when the PM2.5 and PM10 hit 999 micrograms per cubic meter, more than 10 times over the safe limits. In hospitals, the repercussions of exposure to poor air quality are much more aggravated.
On top of the pollution load from the environment, hospitals generate a lot of airborne microbial pollution, so much so that 1.7 million people per year get an infection during their hospital visit. According to WHO, of every 100 hospitalised patients at any given time, seven in developed and ten in developing countries will acquire at least one health care-associated infection. Healthcare associated infections (HAIs) are a widely recognised bane and kill more people each year than breast and prostate cancer combined. Thus, it is imperative for hospitals to take appropriate measures to provide their visitors an environment that is safe and healthy.
There are numerous steps that hospitals must take to maintain clean air in the facility, free from airborne infectious diseases and respiratory illness causing dust particles. First, the facility track the air quality in different locations, including the common waiting area, wards, ICU, ERs, etc. through the use of appropriate air quality sensors and conduct regular air quality tests. To protect the visitors and healthcare workers, the overall air distribution must be sanitised and purified, the fine particulate matter and the airborne microbials must be removed. Due to the massive size of typical facilities, standalone air purifiers cannot work and a central air cleaning approach needs to be taken. The challenge with traditional HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Absorber) or MERV filters is that although they capture dust effectively, they are in turn a secondary source of pollution. Since these filters only capture dust and bacteria, harmful microbials actually accumulate and proliferate on their surfaces, increasing the risk of these microbes being present in the air. Instead central air cleaning type (MCAC), electromagnetic filters must be applied that not only capture tiny dust particles with high efficiency but also kill all microbials on the surface on the filters. These can have up to MERV 15 dust removal efficiency and proven kill rates of 99 per cent on E. Coli. UVGI (Ultraviolet Germicidal) and PCO (Photocatalytic Oxidation) are also known to deactivate and destroy bacteria and viruses upon exposure. Depending on certain critical applications for microbial control, these technologies can be applied. In operation theaters that have hazardous biological waste, HEPA filters must be used to stop the propagation of biomedical waste in the air stream. These extremely high efficiency filters must be applied and replaced frequently to ensure no diseases can spread to and from the OT room.
Hospitals are locations that host people who are most susceptible to diseases. They have patients undergoing treatments and operations, pregnant women, newborn children, elderly seeking care – all who have a lowered immunity. A UNICEF study published recently found that 17 million babies suffer air six times more toxic than the guidelines. Considering this, it is essential for new and existing hospitals to take steps to maintain a good air quality in their premises based on sensing and monitoring. Adopting the recommended strategies, some hospitals and companies have already successfully combated air pollution. The central air cleaning solutions provided by Magneto Cleantech have been applied at scale at several national hospitals, including PGIMER, Chandigarh which has an air volume of 3,76,000 CFM with 68 air handling units. Magneto is also working with the Amrita Hospital in Faridabad with 2000 beds to provide a clean indoor environment 24×7. Since HAI is a massive global issue and India is the tuberculosis capital of the world, healthcare centers such as hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes across India must take appropriate steps to improve the air quality in their facilities, ensuring the sustained well-being of our society.