One month ago, we inspected a private hospital in Essendon and quickly found out there was a significant dust build up in the return air duct. The maintenance manager was shocked to find that the condition of the ducts was so bad. As we walked past an operating theatre, my professional curiosity made me ask if the duct work in this theatre had been cleaned. The maintenance manager replied that it had been cleaned a few years ago, as if this indicated that he did not have to worry about that set of ducts. However, when I inspected the theatre’s return air duct, it too, turned out to be filthy. I strongly advised the maintenance manager to have this cleaned as soon as possible. Imagine if you or your loved ones were having surgery in that theatre, I said; imagine if miniscule particles of dust and other contaminants were gently wafting over you as you lay there, settling in your open wounds… I’m sure you can imagine the possible results. However, the maintenance officer said they wouldn’t be doing it because they did not have the budget for it. I felt so strongly about it that I challenged him, asking what they would do if someone sued the hospital as a result of their contaminated air ducts. This would be a very bad outcome for all involved. Unfortunately, my strength of feeling I put into my challenge annoyed the maintenance manager and turned him off completely. My colleague, Bob, gave me a nudge and said, “Hey mate, you shouldn’t have said something like that, people don’t like it”. Yes, I know that I lost that sale, but I don’t regret saying it. I’m actually glad that I was bold enough to make a point.
On the way back to the office, I came back to the same thought that I had when I inspected the aged care facility. Duct cleaning should be included as an essential part of the hygiene standards in all hospitals and health care facilities. Just because the dust build up inside the ducts isn’t immediately visible, that doesn’t mean that it’s not there, being spread throughout the facility, breathed in by staff and patients alike. Those vulnerable people who need a bit of extra help or care have an absolute right to breathe fresh uncontaminated air.