Often behind-the-scenes, HCA Healthcare’s Environmental Services (EVS) teams are heroes who work around the clock to ensure infection prevention and hospital efficiency. These colleagues dedicate their work to maintaining a safe and clean environment for patients, colleagues and visitors. Read on to learn about a few significant adjustments our facilities’ EVS teams have made in the face of COVID-19.

EVS colleagues at Westside Regional Medical Center

In the face of COVID-19, our hospital colleagues have displayed an unwavering commitment to the health and safety of our patients and each other. One group that exemplifies this commitment is HCA Healthcare’s Environmental Services (EVS) department.

The around-the-clock work of our dedicated EVS teams is critical to preventing infection and keeping hospitals running cleanly and efficiently.

AnnMarie Babb, an EVS colleague at Transylvania Regional Hospital (Brevard, NC)

Two environmental services technicians with HCA Healthcare’s North Carolina division—AnnMarie Babb (Transylvania Regional Hospital – Brevard, NC) and Debbie Zanotti (Angel Medical Center – Franklin, NC) echoed that in the face of adversity, the teamwork and determination of our hospital teams has never been greater. “We’re very much a family, where everyone is taking care of each other,” says AnnMarie.

“I couldn’t be happier to be working with everyone in the ED,” says Debbie. “We all help each other in any way we can.”

While our sanitation professionals are always dedicated to maintaining a safe and clean environment for patients, colleagues and visitors, they have made a few significant adjustments to trainings, cleaning and disinfecting routines and partnerships to combat COVID-19.

New guidance and trainings

Established at the beginning of the pandemic, EVS leaders throughout the enterprise received daily communications from Corporate Infection Prevention and EVS teams. During the briefings, which still occur at least once a week, leaders collaboratively discuss strengths, concerns or needs.

Frontline EVS colleagues have also received important trainings and guidance through in-person instruction, HealthStream courses, handouts and more. “We get new information on-the-go, but we’ve always been on top of it, not behind it,” says AnnMarie. “When we hear from the nurses, and they say, ‘We see you doing all of this extra work. Thank you for thinking about us.’… that’s very reassuring.”

According to Debbie, guidance on disinfecting rooms of patients who have received breathing treatments, and how long sanitation professionals need to wait before cleaning the area, have been especially helpful. “If we have any questions or need additional information, everyone has been quick to answer,” she says.

Increased cleanings and innovative technologies

Throughout the enterprise, EVS colleagues have increased the frequency of routine cleanings of high-touch surfaces—such as door handles, light switches, elevator buttons, arm rests and push bars—and in public or high-traffic areas of the hospital including waiting rooms, lobbies, staff lounges and dining areas.

“I joke that we will need to get new vending machines when this is over because I’ve cleaned them so many times,” Debbie says.

“As we’re going through a room or another area, we treat it like we would if our parents, grandparents or another member of our family was there,” says AnnMarie.

In facilities that have the ability to cohort patients, there are dedicated EVS teams assigned solely to COVID-19 areas. All of our Women’s and Children’s units also have dedicated EVS staff who do not service other areas of the hospital, to ensure the health, safety and peace of mind for mothers and babies in our care.

In addition to increased cleanings and precautions, the organization has also implemented new technologies at various locations to enhance the elimination of pathogens, including UV light technology and electrostatic sprayers.

Unique partnerships

HCA Healthcare has taken a unique approach at acquiring hard-to-get supplies by establishing relationships with non-conventional vendors. A couple of these partnerships include Ford Motor Company, who has provided face shields and isolation gowns (made out of airbag material) to protect our colleagues, and Buffalo Trace Distillery, part of the Sazerac Company, who has provided millions of ounces of hand sanitizer for our facilities.

“In an effort to provide our facilities with the much needed supplies, HCA Healthcare and HealthTrust Supply Chain immediately began looking for unique ways to overcome the supply and distribution challenges that were affecting the market,” says Matthew Oglesby, director of Environmental Services for HealthTrust Supply Chain. “By utilizing our unique partnerships that we have both inside and outside of the healthcare sector, we were able to immediately secure supplies and appropriately vet new items, so our caregivers could continue to have the appropriate tools and resources to provide exceptional care to our patients.”

Harnessing the power of supply chain

As the pandemic began to intensify, our EVS and Supply Chain teams kept a watchful eye on the supply of healthcare disinfectant. As an organization, we were able to immediately establish a self-distribution process, which allowed us to be better positioned to continue to provide the essential chemicals needed to keep our facilities safe.

The self-distribution process, which would normally take around four to five months, was completed in a record two weeks. As part of this effort, we acquired an initial 45-day supply of disinfectants for all of our facilities. We are continuing to purchase supplies directly from the manufacturer instead of using traditional distribution channels.

Debbie is thankful to the organization for providing necessary disinfectant materials, PPE and support for all colleagues. “If there’s anything we need, it’s available to us… Everybody has just been great through all of this. I couldn’t ask for a better place to work,” she says. “I love working with HCA Healthcare—they are really great people.”

Nashville-based HCA Healthcare is one of the nation’s leading providers of healthcare services, comprising 186 hospitals and approximately 2,000 sites of care, including surgery centers, freestanding ERs, urgent care centers, and physician clinics, in 21 states and the United Kingdom.