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The hidden risks of healthcare

Why sewer and drain cleaning is just part of hospital drainage management

Safe and efficient running of hospitals depends on excellent facilities management, and that includes having the right sewer and drain cleaning systems.

Yet the pressures on modern hospitals, and the fact that they are among the most complicated buildings in the world, can make it harder to establish the right sewer and drain cleaning processes.

The changing nature of patient care, and the way patients and visitors use sanitary systems, especially toilets, can also contribute to drain blockages and breakdowns that can impact on patient care and the smooth running of hospital services.

It is not uncommon for wards and treatment areas to be temporarily closed because of drain service blockages or even sewage leaks and flooding. So, what should hospital facilities management professionals consider when planning an effective sewer and drain cleaning regime in a healthcare environment? Here are five key areas that impact on decision-making.

Sewer and drain surveying

Most hospitals have developed piece-meal over time, and not often in a planned way. This means hidden pipe systems are often not surveyed in a comprehensive way, and so are not fully understood. Identifying the source of drainage problems can be difficult, especially in buildings that operate intensively 24 hours a day.

The answer is to carry out a full CCTV drainage survey of the drainage survey, so the full requirements for drain maintenance are fully understood. With the drainage system comprehensively mapped, it is possible to plan an effective drain and sewer cleaning programme.

Drainage system capacity

The ad hoc development of hospitals and other large commercial buildings can mean drainage capacity can be compromised. CCTV drainage surveys will help identify where this is the case. If the system cannot take the volume of waste water generated, no amount of drain and sewer cleaning will keep it running efficiently. Hospital estate managers can then plan improvements, such as installing larger diameter pipes, or pumping systems.

Sewer and drain maintenance

Preventative maintenance is essential to keep drainage systems working properly. In hospitals, the large amounts of cleaning gels used to maintain good hygiene can result in residue building up in drainage downpipes, severely restricting flow rates. Caustic chemicals can contribute to oxidization in cast iron pipes often found in older hospital buildings. Effective sewer and drain cleaning regimes need to be in place to counter these effects.

Drain access in hospitals

Access to drainage pipes can be compromised in hospital environments. Hospital sites are busy places and it can be difficult to get specialist drainage vehicles into place to carry out drainage maintenance work needed. In some cases, pipes have been installed in a way that makes carrying out sewer and drain cleaning harder to complete. These issues need to be worked through, and ways found to make drain maintenance as easy as possible, both for on-site plumbing teams and drainage contractors.

Control what goes into sewers and drains

This is one of the biggest issues. Patients, visitors, and hospital staff put items down toilets and sinks that cause drain blockage problems. Sanitary products and a wide range of wipes, both for personal hygiene and cleaning, are wrongly disposed of down toilets.

Hospital kitchens use a lot of oils and fats that can be disposed of in sinks and drains, contributing to the build-up of deposits in drains and sewers, commonly called fatbergs, which can cause serious blockages. Macerated waste from pulp products, such as bed pans and bowls, contribute to blockage problems if drainage pipes are not working optimally. 

Sewer and drain cleaning can counter some of these issues. But hospital managers need to do all they can to educate patients, visitors and hospital staff about what can be and what cannot be disposed of down toilets and sinks.

In a hospital environment, there is more to drainage management than just carrying out regular sewer and drain cleaning.  There are a range of key elements to consider if the drainage system is to work well, and the cost of this maintenance is controlled.

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