The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on the urgent need for a complete overhaul of infection control issues within long-term care (LTC) facilities throughout Ontario. In keeping with its dedicated commitment to protect employees, workers and the general public, Ball Construction has taken a decidedly proactive approach to infection control and safety within LTC facilities.
In terms of outbreaks and loss of life, LTC facilities across the province have been hit especially hard by the coronavirus. The crisis highlights not only the necessity to redesign and refurbish many LTC buildings but also to ensure they meet the highest available standards of infection control and safety.
At the forefront of such efforts is the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario (CDCO). In order to bring Ontario’s LTC homes and hospitals into the 21st century, CDCO examined factors including the design, structural integrity and age of these facilities.
According to CDCO President, Mike Yorke, “Physically reconfiguring patient rooms and addressing major structural issues such as outdated HVAC, electrical systems, glazing and building envelopes are some examples of what needs to be done.”
A CDCO-led study in 2020 of major COVID-19 outbreaks found that the highest infection rates occurred in LTC homes categorized as D- and C-level facilities. These facilities were built to 1972 nursing home standards or older and have four beds per room and just one bathroom. Unsurprisingly, infection rates among residents averaged 60 percent in these buildings. According to an Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care study such facilities account for over one third of all long-term care beds in Ontario.
By contrast, facilities meeting or exceeding 1999 provincial long-term care standards had an infection rate among residents of 26 percent.
As LTC renovations take place, it is essential to have a thorough infection control training program in place to protect society’s most vulnerable population, as well as healthcare staff and construction workers.
The College of Carpenters and Allied Trades (CCAT) offers a comprehensive union training course on infection control best practices. Their Infection Control Risk Assessment (ICRA) course entitled Best Practices in Healthcare Construction, is designed for contractors and construction workers. The two-part training and certification program includes 16 hours of in-class theory and eight hours of hands-on training covering building practices and protocols.
A second eight-hour awareness class has been added for all those working in healthcare, from facility engineers to project managers to healthcare staff.
The ICRA training is designed to meet the unique challenges of the healthcare facility setting. This involves containing infectious agents, controlling airflow, containing noise and working without disrupting adjacent operations.
Adam Bridgman, CDCO’s provincial carpentry training coordinator noted that, “Working in healthcare facilities is vastly different than other spaces because residents with complex health issues are often immune-compromised and highly vulnerable to pathogens.”
The training focuses on renovations and additions to existing, occupied buildings and the hazards this entails.
“A key component of this is preventing the transfer of construction contaminate or biohazards within ceilings, walls, floors, doors, plumbing and ventilation systems before and during the construction process,” added Bridgman.
According to Ball Construction president, Jason Ball, “The ICRA course teaches participants how to control the environment while working in long-term care facilities, which is crucial. This training is of tremendous benefit for our employees.”
Several Ball staff and tradespeople have taken ICRA’s 24-hour certification course as well as the eight-hour awareness class.
Kevin Ball recently completed the three-day certification training: “In light of the pandemic ICRA training takes on added value,” Ball said. “It is essential for LTC and hospital staff to be able to control and contain contaminants, as well as pathogens, to ensure the safety of the most vulnerable members of society.”
Ball project manager, Brent Cochrane, took the awareness training: “Knowing how to deal with these infectious agents properly and how to minimize risk to building occupants is something we take very seriously in our construction projects. With ICRA training you gain a greater understanding of the risks from infectious agents that are present in our everyday lives and how to protect building occupants and workers. It’s very beneficial for all involved.”
Demand for ICRA training continues to grow and has expanded across the province. The course is a principal ingredient in the province’s plan to make Ontario’s LTC facilities much safer and healthier—and a vital element in the protection of residents, frontline staff and construction workers.
Ball Construction is ready with ICRA-trained staff and tradespeople to help retrofit Ontario’s LTC facilities and hospitals.