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Support services

4-1 What are healthcare support services?

Support services work behind the scenes in healthcare to make sure that clinical staff, patients and visitors are safe and cared for. Unfortunately the staff working in support services are often neglected when training is provided. Infection prevention and control (IPC) programmes need simple but solid training programmes for these staff to ensure they are adequately informed and protected with knowledge and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). No healthcare delivery system can function without a well-organised infrastructure.

4-2 What is the role of support services in management of Ebola outbreaks?

The work of the support service teams is absolutely critical to the smooth operation and safety of patients and healthcare workers in outbreak settings. They essentially provide a safe environment in a busy and potentially highly infectious work setting. In Ebola outbreaks, there is excessive use of personal protective equipment (PPE), water, electricity, medical equipment, linen and disposal of infectious waste. Well-trained support staff will ensure a safer working environment for themselves, healthcare staff and patients, particularly when handling laundry and infectious waste.

Support staff provide essential services that ensure a safe working environment in a busy and potentially highly infectious healthcare setting.

4-3 Which support services are required?

In any healthcare facility, whether it is an Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) or a regular healthcare facility dealing with possible suspected cases of Ebola, the following aspects must be considered:

Standard operating procedures (SOPs) must be in place as visual reminders to reduce occupationally acquired exposure in support services staff. They must understand the risk to themselves, know how to conduct their work safely and realise the critical role they play in the healthcare service. They should be recognised as an integral and essential part of the infection control (IPC) team and must be treated as such.

4-4 Who should co-ordinate the support services?

Ideally, the administration of the healthcare facility should ensure that these services are in place and are functioning properly. Each facility should appoint a technical co-ordinator, assisted by a multi-disciplinary team to manage and advise on technical issues.

In a crisis situation like an Ebola outbreak, there are often major shortages of PPE, IPC equipment and other essentials. There is also huge pressure on an already fragile healthcare infrastructure. Organisations supporting the Ebola epidemic should work together with the health administrators and facility technical co-ordinators to ensure that the correct amount of good-quality equipment is purchased and used. It is a team effort and needs to be based on trust and supply of accurate information. Ultimately, the responsibility lies with the government to ensure an uninterrupted supply of support services. Support services are part of the healthcare delivery team, the same as IPC.

Procurement of provisions for infection control

4-5 What is procurement of provisions?

Procurement is the buying of goods needed for healthcare service delivery. It is a complex business especially in countries where the supply chain is unreliable. In many outbreak settings or countries with weak healthcare systems, lack of essential stock items in hospitals is common. Additional challenges include inadequate quality control of items and absence of electronic stock control systems. In most of these settings, manual records are kept making it difficult to track which items are needed. A good procurement system should monitor usage and distribution of items, with a stock replacement system that can give accurate updates on current stock supplies.

Procurement is the buying of goods needed for the delivery of healthcare services.

4-6 Which essential items should be procured?

It is very difficult to estimate the exact needs of any particular unit in an outbreak setting, but certain essential items are required to ensure adequate infection control standards (based on the WHO guidelines, September 2014).

Table 4-1: Essential items in an outbreak setting

Category of item What is required Comments
Hand hygiene supplies Running water Running water can be supplied from municipal services (if reliable) or water containers. If no disposable hand towels, can have personal use towels.
Disposable towels
Alcohol handrub If not available, chlorine solution at 0.05%, although this is not recommended by WHO.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) Clothes or theatre scrubs All staff must change out of their 'street' clothes. Each worker will need a pair of boots (preferably one size larger for easy removal). If boots are not available, slip-on shoes without laces that cover the full foot are an option, together with fluid-resistant shoe covers. Double gloving is required in all clinical areas. Domestic gloves are needed for burial, linen and waste management duties. Coveralls are preferred if working in Support Services. If using reusable aprons they must be robust to withstand repeated exposure to chlorine. Surgical masks are worn with face shields or can be 'off the face' fluid-resistant types worn with goggles. Face shields are less prone to fogging up and give more visibility to the worker.
Rubber/gum boots
Sets of PPE PPE sets should include: non-sterile examination gloves, domestic (rubber) gloves, water-resistant gown or coverall, disposable plastic aprons or reusable ones, face covers or fluid-resistant surgical masks or respirators, face shields or goggles, head gear, e.g. hood to cover head and neck.
Waste management Red bags and containers for infectious waste Some facilities may use yellow bags for biohazardous waste, but red bags are preferred. For final waste disposal (after appropriate treatment) the simplest and cheapest method would be to use an incinerator. This, however, causes environmental pollution with health risks so better technologies, e.g. autoclaving, are being made available, at low cost, specifically designed for low-resource settings.
Robust sharps containers
Black bags for general waste
A method for final disposal of waste
A convenient place for storage, treatment and final disposal
Environmental cleaning and disinfectants (refer to WHO guidelines) Supply of clean water Chlorine liquid can be accurately diluted to give the correct concentration. The correct method for application is to use a cloth soaked in the correct dilution of chlorine and apply it evenly and allow to dry.
Chlorine liquid Random spraying of the environment with disinfectants is not recommended. Quality control of detergents and disinfectants is important, especially in hot African climates, where some products may be unstable. Disinfectants should be stored in dry and cool areas.
Detergents (not washing up liquid!)
Ammonia-based cleaners for toilets and baths
Cloths (wiping/drying)
Mops (floors/toilets)
Linen/mattresses Linen for beds
Mattresses with impervious rubber covers
Sterilisation services Indicators for sterilisers, Bowie Dick test, chemical and biological indicators
Clinical supplies Laboratory sampling tubes and bottles All essential items and equipment should be put into a dry, cool and secure store room.
Needles, syringes

4-7 Which personal protective equipment is required for support services staff?

The table provides suggestions for appropriate PPE to be used in different support services areas.

Table 4-2: Appropriate PPE for different support services areas

Procedure Gloves Gown or coverall Apron Face mask N95 respirator Face shield Goggles Hood or head cover Boots
Direct clinical contact option 1    
Direct clinical contact option 2    
Laundry Domestic (rubber)    
Waste Heavy duty    
Body removal Heavy duty Coverall preferred    
CSSD Domestic (rubber)    
Environmental cleaning Domestic (rubber) Coverall preferred    
Washing patient care articles Domestic (rubber)    
Burial of bodies Heavy duty Coverall preferred    

4-8 Why is the quality of the items important?

Good-quality equipment is essential to protect healthcare workers and patients. However, purchases must be cost-effective. Ideally the procurement or logistics staff, together with someone with IPC experience, should review all items before ordering. The following issues should be considered:

4-9 How is the amount of stock required estimated?

For smooth operation of an Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) a constant supply of acceptable quality products must be ensured. In an Ebola outbreak, one will have to make certain assumptions or best guess estimates regarding the volume of usage, for example:

If the quality of the PPE items is poor, this estimated number required could increase further. This potentially could lead to PPE shortages, in addition to generally increasing risk of healthcare worker contamination when using PPE of poor quality.

The amount of stock needed in each Ebola Treatment Unit must be carefully calculated.

4-10 What considerations are important when dealing with donated stock?

Everyone is trying to help with Ebola and making donations of equipment and materials which are not always appropriate to the local conditions. It is best to be specific about what donations are required and acceptable, otherwise large numbers of items that are unusable will be wasted. Countries in need do not want to appear ungrateful and often feel obliged to accept inappropriate donations. These items may be difficult to dispose of and may create an expectation of usefulness, but does not influence the outcome of the epidemic. Acceptable donations are disposable and/or single use items of good quality such as hand hygiene products, PPE or similar. Equally, good-quality linen, patient-care articles and ward-support articles can be accepted. Make sure that donated electric equipment has a service contract and that spare parts are available.

For electrical machinery such as sterilisers, washer disinfectors, or other automated equipment make sure the following is also available and comes as part of the donation: What is the equipment to be used for and is it really needed? Will it reduce risk to staff, if so, how? Will the donor provide certified orientation to local staff on the use and maintenance of the donated equipment? What infrastructure is required to run the machines, such as 3-phase electricity, running water with sufficient pressure? What are the manufacturer’s guidelines and instructions on which chemicals are to be used with these machines and will these be supplied for 5 years? (If the wrong ones are used, the machines will not function.) Will the donor sign a contract to provide regular servicing of the equipment for at least 5 years? Will there be spare parts available for at least 5 years?

Decontamination of equipment

4-11 What is decontamination?

Decontamination is the process followed to ensure that reusable medical devices are safe to use on the next patient. Examples are the decontamination of a vaginal speculum between patients or surgical instruments between operations. In the case of outbreaks, particularly with viral haemorrhagic fevers, the risk of transmitting infection when sharing equipment is high (by indirect contact). Decontamination includes some or all of the following steps:

Decontamination is a process that ensures that reusable medical devices are safe to use on another patient.

4-12 What is cleaning?

Cleaning is the physical removal of all visible organic matter and dirt from the surfaces and crevices (hinges and serrated teeth) of any item that is to be disinfected or sterilised. Cleaning is essential before any disinfection of surfaces or disinfection and/or sterilisation of equipment which is reused, whether for patient care or surgery. In order for cleaning to be effective, detergents are added to the water. Detergents are cleaning substances which usually are sold as a powder or liquid and are similar to soaps.

Without cleaning, adequate disinfection cannot take place.

4-13 What is disinfection?

Disinfection is the use of heat or a chemical which will reduce the number of disease-producing microorganisms (bio-burden) of an item or surface. Disinfection will kill most bacteria, most viruses (including Ebola) and some fungi and parasites. It does not kill spores. Prior to disinfection, all items must be thoroughly cleaned as disinfectants can be inactivated by organic matter. Disinfection is used to make an item safe to handle and safe for use, but the items are not sterile. The best method of disinfection is heat because it is simple, inexpensive and can be controlled. However, in the current Ebola outbreak disinfectants such as chlorine (bleach) are widely used because of the ease of availability in shops across Africa.

Chlorine at a strength of 0.5% is used as an environmental or equipment disinfectant while a weaker dilution of 0.05% chlorine is often used for skin antisepsis (washing hands/body/hair) although this is not ideal.

Chlorine is corrosive to metal and can be inactivated by organic matter.

4-14 Why should the indiscriminate and incorrect use of chlorine be discouraged?

Items are often soaked in chemical disinfectants such as chlorine immediately after use in the belief that the virus will be destroyed. This is incorrect for the following reasons:

Putting items in liquid solutions also increases the risk of splashes to mucous membranes; while spraying with disinfectant also increases the risk of human exposure. Chlorine must always be used with caution as it is irritating to the skin and mucous membranes. Therefore, always wear protective equipment when using chlorine.

When handling chemicals always wear appropriate protective equipment: domestic gloves, plastic apron, face and eye cover to protect the skin and mucous membranes.

4-15 What is sterilisation?

Sterilisation means that all microbes are killed including bacterial spores. It is a process used mostly for surgical instruments (where sterility is essential). Since little or no invasive procedures are undertaken in Ebola Treatment Units, the need to sterilise items is limited, and it might be best to use disposable packs when necessary. Nonetheless, it is important to know what should be done in case sterilisation (a CSSD or Central Sterile Services Department) is required. The main method of sterilisation is steam with release of heat when it is in contact with items in the steriliser. Chemical sterilisation is possible but the equipment is expensive, the exposure time is long (hours) and has to be well controlled. It also does not work with all instruments.

The Spaulding classification best defines the type of medical devices and the level of processing they require to be rendered safe for reuse.
Level Examples
Critical Medical devices entering a sterile area of the body, e.g. surgical instruments, must be sterile. This means they must be sterilised under controlled conditions with quality indicators.
Semi-critical Medical devices that enter areas of the body which have microbes in them such as the mouth and the respiratory tract; these items have to be cleaned and disinfected.
Non-critical Items from the patient’s environment (not in direct contact with the patient) which can cause disease by indirect contact via hands. These must be clean and dry.

Sterilisation is a process that kills all microorganisms.

4-16 Which factors increase risk of transmission from inadequately decontaminated items?

The major risks are medical devices contaminated with blood and body fluids. Devices which have been damaged (lost integrity) due to pre-soaking in corrosive disinfectants such as 0.05% chlorine (bleach) are also a risk. If devices are poorly cleaned, organic matter will remain on the instruments, preventing proper disinfection and/or sterilisation. Staff must be well trained in proper reprocessing including cleaning, disinfection and sterilisation. The reprocessing of equipment must be functioning and the systems validated. The final risk is lack of proper storage of sterile items which become re-contaminated.

4-17 What steps should be followed when reprocessing devices?

Reprocessing is the action which makes reusable medical devices safe to use on other patients:

Step 1

Make a list (an inventory) of the available medical devices which are reusable.

Step 2

Evaluate the workload of the facility per week or month, e.g. how many procedures of which type take place on average. Then estimate the number of medical devices needed for these procedures. It is important to ensure that the staff dealing with medical devices is trained in handling equipment from Ebola facilities.

Step 3

Pre-soak procedure (at the site of use). Wear PPE. Place clean water and detergent in a bucket with a lid, with a sieve (rack or tray) that can fit into it. The water level should be two thirds of the height of the container. The two handles of the rack or tray are outside on the lip of the bucket. The instruments are placed on this rack. After the surgical operation, the rack is lowered into the bucket and the instruments are soaked (completely covered) for 10 minutes to remove organic matter. Lift the rack and allow the medical devices to drain. Carry out a visual inspection to ensure most of the organic matter has been removed. If not, repeat the process. Throw the water from the bucket into the sluice (or patient toilet if nothing else is available). Place the rack in the bucket with the lid secured in place and carry these instruments to the sterilisation area. Disassemble and prepare for cleaning. No bleach or any other disinfectant is needed.

Soaking devices in bleach or any other disinfectant is not recommended or required.

Step 4

Cleaning of medical devices. This is the most essential step in disinfection and/or sterilisation. Cleaning can be done with an automatic washer or manually:

Most medical devices can be reprocessed safely if this is done by trained personnel.

For manual cleaning refer to the WHO Decontamination Manual, 2nd Edition. 2014

4-18 What additional steps should be followed for devices that require sterilisation?

Step 5

Inspection, Assembly, Packaging. Have a close look at the instruments for cleanliness, integrity and functionality. Disassemble all devices unless the manufacturer’s recommendations are to sterilise them while assembled. Place in trays and wrap with appropriate covers if a porous load steriliser is used. Place on trolley and load into the steriliser.

Step 6

Sterilisation. There are either gravity (downward displacement) sterilisers or porous load (pre-vacuum) sterilisers. Careful placing and loading is important to allow good removal of air and circulation of steam!

Gravity Sterilisers: validation is done by checking and recording readings from the gauges and physical indicators. Make sure the operators know how to use them and what the gauge readings mean. Porous Load sterilisers: these sterilisers will require 3 phase electricity and usually a constant water supply with clean water to provide high-quality steam. They are more sophisticated and the operators will require training. Minimum indicators are the daily Bowie Dick test and the chemical indicator is placed inside each pack, and ideally a biological indicator is run daily or at least weekly. There must be adequate space for steam to circulate and penetrate and that the vacuum will remove air consistently. Steam must be of the correct saturation to be most effective and penetrate each of the packs to ensure sterility.

Step 7

Sterile storage and transportation. Once the sterilisation packages have been removed, they must be allowed to cool before being used. They must come out dry from the steriliser and be kept in a cool and dry environment ready for use. Sterile packs must be transported in a clean and dry manner. Sterile or cleaned items should be stored in a clean dry area away from heat.

Decontamination of patient care articles

4-19 Why do patient care articles pose a hazard?

A major source of transmission between patients and staff is poorly cleaned patient care articles such as bedpans, urinals, jugs, bowls and mattresses. These articles are often neglected because they have to be cleaned manually and proper provisions often do not exist. There is high risk of Ebola transmission from faeces, urine, vomitus and patient excretions. Therefore, it is best to assist the patient to get to the toilet. If available, adult nappies are another alternative. Cleaning is vital to reduce the transmission of Ebola. It is also the first step prior to disinfection or sterilisation.

It is important to manually clean bedpans, urinals, jugs, bowls and mattresses especially if soiled by stool or vomitus.

4-20 How should patient care articles be disinfected?

Automated bedpan washer disinfectors are best because these reduce the risk of exposure to the staff and also clean and disinfect the items using heat (90 °C for 1 minute). Where these are not available, manual cleaning should be done using the following method:

Ebola virus is highly sensitive to heat.

4-21 How should clinical items be handled?

Clinical items (such as thermometers) used in the confirmed Ebola section of the ETU may not be removed to other areas. These items should be cleaned with an alcohol wipe after each use. In West Africa, blood pressure apparatus is not used because of the risk of contamination. However, in high-income countries, disposable blood pressure cuffs and distance monitoring disposable finger probes are used. In almost all ETUs, no invasive procedures are carried out and therefore there are very few used medical devices which will require reprocessing.

4-22 How should patient’s crockery and cutlery be handled?

In Ebola, feeding utensils such as crockery (cups and plates) and cutlery (spoons, knives and forks), can get contaminated with saliva and patient secretions and will be treated as infectious. For this reason it is often simplest to supply food to inpatients in disposable containers. However, should the need arise to wash utensils (such as at home) the following method may be applied:

Decontamination of the environment

4-23 How should the patient environment be cleaned?

Environmental cleaning (cleaning the area around a patient) is a crucial part of infection control in ETU and must be done with special care and attention. In situations like Ebola, where high contamination of the environment is expected, cleaning and disinfection of all surfaces at least once a day is recommended.

The method for environmental cleaning and disinfection recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO, 2014) is:

Chlorine used as an environmental or equipment disinfectant is usually used at a strength of 0.5%. Chlorine used for skin antisepsis (washing hands/body/hair) is used at a weaker dilution of 0.05%.

4-24 What is terminal cleaning?

This is cleaning that is carried out when a patient is discharged or has died. The purpose of terminal cleaning is to make the room safe for the next patient to use (by reducing the chance of transmitting infection from contaminated surfaces). In ETU the rapid patient turnover makes it impossible to do this thoroughly. All disposable items or disposable equipment which have been in contact with an Ebola patient must be discarded as infectious waste. There are usually very few (if any) reusable items to be sent for decontamination.

High levels of environmental contamination occur in Ebola outbreaks, requiring that all surfaces are cleaned and disinfected at least once daily.

4-25 How should blood and body fluid spills be handled?

The following principles should be applied:

An easily understandable protocol for handling blood or body fluid spills must be displayed.

4-26 How should used (soiled) linen be handled?

Linen is a potential source of Ebola transmission, particularly when contaminated with blood and body fluids. Disposable linen is ideal, but in most resource-constrained settings, linen will be reused. When handling contaminated linen:

4-27 How should mattresses be disinfected?

While wearing full PPE, the mattress must be checked for any damage (there should be no tears or cracks). Fill a bucket with clean water and detergent. Use a cloth soaked in the bucket to wipe over the surface of the mattress. Wipe to dry. Wipe over with a disinfectant such as 0.05% chlorine solution and allow to dry (preferably in the sun).

0.05% chlorine (bleach) can be used to disinfect mattresses and 0.5% chlorine can be used for linen.

4-28 How should the home of a patient diagnosed with Ebola be decontaminated?

When entering a home, be respectful. Inform the senior member of the family of what you are about to do. Allow the family to tidy up the home if they want to. Put on the full set of personal protective equipment before entering the home. Go to the victim’s room to remove the body only after the prayers or other rites have been completed. Spray the home (surfaces, walls and floors) with a 0.5% chlorine solution, after thoroughly cleaning with detergent. There is no point in spraying the earth outside and no benefit in spraying humans directly with chlorine!

Waste management

4-29 What is medical waste?

Medical waste is the waste discarded after patient care. Ebola Treatment Units and other healthcare facilities (not directly handling Ebola patients) produce a considerable amount of medical waste (up to 30 kg per day per bed). In the case of an ETU, all waste is classified as infectious. This simplifies matters because medical waste no longer needs to be separated into infectious (clinical) and non-infectious waste. Make sure that the ETU or facility has a clear policy stating who is responsible for collecting the waste, where containers will be stored, and how the waste will be finally disposed of.

4-30 How should medical waste be handled?

All areas where PPE is removed and patient care areas should have robust waste containers lined with red bags for infectious waste. If the outer containers are not disposable they have to be washed, cleaned, disinfected and relined with a red bag (some countries use yellow bags for infectious waste). During these processes the waste management worker should:

Some people recommend spraying the outside of the bags with chlorine so that the handlers feel more comfortable that contamination is reduced. Make sure the chlorine does not drip all over the floor after spraying. For transportation of infectious waste, the bags will be collected in trolleys and taken to a point where they will be finally disposed. The trolley must be cleaned and disinfected daily or after each transportation session.

4-31 How should medical waste be disposed of?

Liquid waste can be disposed of down the patient toilets or double pit latrines. In some instances special pits can be dug to allow liquid waste disposal. All solid infectious waste must be disinfected before final disposal.

There are several methods available for disposal of solid waste:

4-32 How should sharps be disposed of?

In an ETU the use of sharps should be kept to an absolute minimum to reduce the risk of needle-stick injury. Sharps are generally in the Ebola ‘suspect’ or triage areas where blood samples are drawn for laboratory tests. Recently, some ETUs have started using intravenous fluid replacement in the patient care areas. In such cases, it is essential that a robust sharps container is placed within arm’s length of each healthcare worker who is using sharps. The containers must be sealed and may be sprayed with chlorine before being placed in a red bag. The neck of the bag is tied and clearly labelled and taken to a place for removal.


4-33 What information should be documented?

There are many pieces of information that should be documented when containing an outbreak, but only the essential ones are mentioned here. A reasonable list of topics is as follows:

  1. Ebola preparedness. How prepared is the facility or country to deal with Ebola? A questionnaire has been produced by the Infection Control Africa Network (ICAN) and the International Society of Chemotherapy (ISC) (see Resources).
  2. What is the actual caseload? This is essential information which can only be gleaned from admission records and the confirmed laboratory cases. It is best to keep an electronic record at the patient arrival point (where cases are registered). There are national figures which could also be accessed via the non-governmental organisations.
  3. Set up links with the community to report suspected cases of Ebola. This could happen via peer counsellors but is not easy to set up.
  4. Infection control checklist. This is a list of items that must be in place at the beginning of each day with a 36 hour stock in the clinical areas. This includes hand hygiene products, PPE, detergents and disinfectants.
  5. Clinical activity audit. Behaviour of healthcare workers during clinical ward rounds to be observed by a colleague to ensure the right practices are followed including appropriate hand hygiene.
  6. Putting on and taking off PPE according to the prescribed method by the WHO – audit of practice.

4-34 Who should be responsible for documentation?

Various people are responsible for collecting data at each facility or ETU. It is best if one person is identified by the facility manager who can be held responsible for gathering and disseminating the information. The infection control (IPC) teams can collect information on clinical cases and IPC practices. They can also carry out audits to help with monitoring and evaluation of the programme. The information should be discussed at the daily or weekly clinical meetings, the administration meetings and meetings with the Department of Health.

Incident reporting

4-35 What is incident reporting?

Any accidental exposure, occupational or otherwise, of a healthcare worker or patient should be reported immediately to the authorities. A register is set up which will record the incident. It will require laboratory testing (blood samples taken from source and victim) and the person will be put under observation for 21 days, which is taking one’s temperature twice a day. Ideally each Ebola treatment unit should have a physician appointed to deal with exposure incidents. All healthcare workers should be made aware of the risks and the requirement to report any exposure incidents.

Any accidental exposure by a healthcare worker must be reported immediately.

4-36 What action should be taken following an exposure incident?

Accidental exposure to blood via a needle-stick or splash exposure will require the following immediate actions:

Design of Ebola treatment units

4-37 What is the preferred layout of an Ebola Treatment Unit?

In the countries with large Ebola outbreaks, several Ebola Treatment Units (ETUs) have been established by different non-governmental organisations. However, in all ETUs the design is covered by the same principles. There is clear definition of ‘clean or low-risk’ and ‘dirty or high-risk’ areas. The demarcation lines are never crossed from dirty to clean, i.e. there is one-way traffic from clean to dirty areas to reduce transmission and cross-contamination. Provision for hand hygiene and appropriate PPE must be available at each entry point and provision for safe removal of PPE must be clearly defined at each exit. Clinical notes and other materials will be kept outside the high-risk areas.

The demarcation lines are never crossed from dirty to clean, i.e. there is one-way traffic to reduce transmission and cross-contamination.

4-38 What is the preferred workflow for an Ebola Treatment Unit?

The ETU, like any other healthcare facility, should be well thought-out and constructed, whether it is make-shift with tents or a solid building structure. The ETU area is divided into separate staff and patient entry and exit areas (as shown in this diagrammatic sketch from MSF below).

Table 4-3: Preferred workflow for an Ebola Treatment Unit

Area Description of activity
1. Staff entry area A clearly demarcated entry point for staff going into the clinical areas after putting on PPE. The area will hold enough PPE for two days for all those entering. There is a hand hygiene station. The changing area for men and women has to be clearly defined. Here the staff changes into scrubs and rubber boots.
2. Staff Exit area Staff leaving the clinical area may only do so at this exit point. There will be no cross over into the entry section. Staff will remove their PPE according to the defined protocols which should be displayed on the walls. There must be at least 3 hand hygiene stations here since there will be more than one person exiting at any one time. The area will contain infectious waste containers for the PPE. There will be a bench to sit down and remove overshoes if used.
3. Patient entry point Patients enter here, while the relatives go and wait at the visitors' area. A person must be present to receive the patients and talk to the relatives, take temperature and take a preliminary history before triaging. There must be good hand hygiene facilities available at all times.
4. Triage area The patient will be placed here awaiting rapid diagnosis of suspected EVD. The area should be well ventilated and airy. The patients and relatives may meet over the wall separating the visitors' area.
5. Suspect area Suspected Ebola cases are held here until results are returned. If the patient is found to be negative for Ebola but with suspicious clinical symptoms s/he remains there and is treated for malaria and other infectious diseases. This area needs good hand hygiene facilities, isolation areas or cohort areas and good toilet facilities.
6. Confirmed cases For patients who test positive for Ebola and are transferred from the suspect area.
7. Ambulance entry Entry of confirmed cases via ambulance – referral in from other ETUs.
8. Mortuary For storage of bodies and preparation for safe burials
9. Support services Support services, stores and other health facility infrastructure areas. Waste removal, laundry and other used item removal takes place via this area.
10. Visitors' area Visitors' area where they can meet their families. This area should be covered and have seating for visitors to rest. There should be hand hygiene and toilet facilities. Information posters in at least two or three languages.

Figure 4-1: Preferred workflow for an Ebola Treatment Unit

Figure 4-1: Preferred workflow for an Ebola Treatment Unit

4-39 What is required for water supply?

A constant supply of clean water is essential for hand hygiene, domestic use, washing of patients, food preparation and most importantly cleaning the environment. Water supply is also required for steam sterilisers, laundry and in some areas, waste disposal. Ideally large tanks should be installed to contain up to three days usage of water. Piped water to the patient areas, kitchen and laundry would be ideal.

4-40 What are the power/energy requirements?

There should be a constant supply of electricity to all healthcare facilities. If power outages are common, a generator or two (possible donation) which runs on petrol or diesel would be essential. Some of the larger equipment such as sterilisers and operating theatre systems will require 3-phase electricity supply. If used as fuel, natural gas can either be piped or delivered in bottles or containers. It might be a cheaper alternative to electricity.

4-41 What are the ventilation requirements?

An essential but often neglected aspect of facility design is ventilation. Most of the ETUs do not have any type of ventilation. By following the recommendations of high-income countries and using coveralls without any ventilation in the facilities, healthcare workers have suffered from heat exhaustion and reduced capacity to work efficiently. This is cited as one of the reasons for healthcare workers getting infected, because they function less than optimally under these conditions. Good natural ventilation is important. In ideal circumstances, negative pressure ventilation of at least 6-12 air changes would be recommended.

Case study

A foreign country’s ministry of health has decided to assist in the West African Ebola crisis by building and staffing a 50-bed Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) in Sierra Leone. They consult a team of healthcare facility designers, engineers, logistics managers and infection control specialists to determine what will be needed.

1. What are the basic requirements for setting up a field hospital or Ebola Treatment Unit?

The facility will require multiple temporary structures, e.g. tents, to accommodate patients and support service activities. A stable water and energy supply is needed. Provision of adequate natural or mechanical ventilation should be carefully considered, given the extremely hot and humid climate. Aside from medical and nursing staff, the ETU will require a host of other, very important workers to run the support services, e.g. engineers, supply managers, epidemiologists, decontamination experts, etc.

2. How should the Ebola Treatment Unit be laid out?

There should be separate entrances and exits for staff and patients. Patients should be separated into 3 groups: triage (awaiting assessment); suspect cases (compatible Ebola case history but pending laboratory result) and confirmed cases. There should be no movement from the confirmed area to other areas. There should be clear definition of ‘clean or low-risk’ and ‘dirty or high-risk’ areas. The demarcation lines should never be crossed from dirty to clean, i.e. there is one-way traffic to reduce transmission and cross-contamination. Provision for hand hygiene and appropriate PPE must be available at each entry point and provision for safe removal of PPE must be clearly defined at each exit.

3. Which support services should be present?

The work of the support service teams is critical to the smooth operation and safety of patients and healthcare workers in outbreak settings. They provide a safe environment in a busy and potentially highly infectious work setting. All ETUs need some or all of the following support services: Procurement/supply chain management; engineers (ventilation, water and electricity); decontamination services (to reprocess medical devices) and environmental cleaning; laundry; waste management; logistics and Information technology support.

4. How should waste be disposed of in Ebola Treatment Units?

Liquid waste can be disposed of down the patient toilets or double pit latrines. There are several methods available for disposal of solid waste, e.g. pit fills, drum burning, incineration and autoclaving. All staff handling waste should be wearing full PPE and should have received full training on the risks involved.

How to use chlorine (bleach) correctly

How to make chlorine solutions for environmental disinfection

Example 1: Using liquid bleach

Chlorine in liquid bleach comes in different concentrations. Any concentration can be used to make a dilute chlorine solution by applying the following formula:

% chlorine in liquid bleach ÷ % chlorine desired – 1 = Total parts water for each part bleach*

Example: To make a 0.5% chlorine solution from 3.5%** bleach:

3.5% ÷ 0.5% – 1 = 7 – 1 = 6 parts water for each part bleach

Therefore, you must add 1 part 3.5% bleach to 6 parts water to make a 0.5% chlorine solution.

* ‘Parts’ can be used for any unit of measure (e.g. ounce, litre or gallon), or any container used for measuring, such as a pitcher.

** In countries where French products are available, the amount of active chlorine is usually expressed in degrees chlorum. One degree chlorum is equal to 0.3% active chlorine.

Example 2: Using bleach powder

If using bleach powder,* calculate the amount of bleach to be mixed with each litre of water by using the following formula:

% chlorine desired ÷ % chlorine in bleach powder × 1000 = grams of bleach powder for every litre of water

Example: To make a 0.5% chlorine solution from calcium hypochlorite (bleach) powder containing 35% active chlorine:

0.5% ÷ 35% × 1000 = 0.0143 × 1000 = 14.3

Therefore, you must dissolve 14.3 grams of calcium hypochlorite (bleach) powder in each litre of water used to make a 0.5% chlorine solution.

* When bleach powder is used, the resulting chlorine mixture is likely to be cloudy (milky).

Example 3: Formula for making a dilute solution from a concentrated solution

Total Parts (TP) (H₂O) = % Concentrate ÷ % Dilute – 1

Example: To make a dilute solution (0.1%) from 5% concentrated solution

TP (H₂O) = 5% ÷ 0.1% – 1 = 50 – 1 = 49

Take 1 part concentrated solution to 49 parts boiled (filtered if necessary) water.

Source: AVSC International (1999). Infection Prevention Curriculum. Teacher’s Manual. New York. Page 267.