No reports of infection from construction activities

James Kon

The Ministry of Health (MoH) has yet to receive any reports of infection from harmful micro-organisms or germs that are directly linked to construction activities in district hospitals, said Deputy Permanent Secretary (Professional) at the MoH Dr Haji Zulaidi bin Haji Abdul Latif.

The deputy permanent secretary was speaking at the opening of Infection Control Risk Assessment (ICRA) workshop, held recently at the MoH’s Al-’Afiah Hall.

“Despite having no cases, the Ministry of Health cannot afford to be compliant, because the risk of infection associated with construction activities to high-risk patients will always exist if no measures are being taken to reduce and curb the occurrence of such risks,” he said.

“The Ministry of Health has always placed very high emphasis on providing quality, safe and guaranteed healthcare for the prevention of healthcare-associated infections.

“These infections include those related to construction and renovation activities both inside and outside the health facilities.

“The surrounding environment is a natural resource of harmful micro-organisms or germs, and has the potential to cause infections that could potentially endanger the health and life of human beings.”

Deputy Permanent Secretary (Professional) at the MoH Dr Haji Zulaidi bin Haji Abdul Latif during the workshop. PHOTO: MOH

“Exposure to harmful micro-organisms or germs can be caused by disruption to the environment of area or construction site, as well as renovation, maintenance, repair and demolition activities, whether inside or near health facilities.”

Dr Haji Zulaidi also said that the occurrence of harmful and direct infection from the environment is rare, “However, for patients with low immune system, exposure to these micro-organisms or germs can cause infection with significant morbidity and death.

“There have been many reports and research papers published over the last four decades regarding outbreaks caused by fungal infections, especially the Aspergillus species among high-risk patients. The reports support the link of infection with construction activities in health facilities, which have already resulted in a mortality rate of between 12.5 per cent and around 67 per cent.”

Taking into account new construction activities, renovation and maintenance activities for the past three years, the permanent secretary revealed that there were 229 projects carried out at the Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha Hospital in 2018, 121 in 2019 and 49 so far in 2020.

In December 2019, the MoH launched a guideline on risk assessment and prevention of infection as well as control measures for activities related to construction. The workshop is a follow-up to those guidelines, in an effort to instil awareness and achieve the implementation of ICRA for activities related to new construction or renovation by nationwide stakeholders in health facilities.

Among the objectives of the one-day workshop were highlighting the role of facilities’ design in supporting infection prevention and control practice, creating understanding on how design principles and guidelines inform a safe and efficient environment, creating awareness on the role and importance of Pre-Construction Risk Assessment (PCRA) to reduce the impact of construction-related activities on patient care delivery, and to inculcate the standard procedures of ICRA for construction-related activities to facilitate its implementation in respective healthcare facilities

The workshop featured a series of talks from various speakers, in addition to sharing sessions on experiences of ICRA in community health settings and public and private hospital settings.

The workshop also included group exercises to allow the participants to apply what they learnt in different construction-related activities scenarios, which were then followed by a reflection session to identify any gaps and deficiencies in infection prevention and control processes and procedures, while developing recommendations for improvement.