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Managing Waterborne Pathogens in the Healthcare Environment

Improperly maintained water systems can cause a myriad of problems, most notably, hospital acquired infections (HAI). In a CDC publication in December of 2023, it was reported that each year 17 pathogens transmitted through water are responsible for an estimated 7.2 million cases of waterborne illness, 120,000 hospitalizations, and 6,600 deaths in the United States. For this reason it is critical that medical facilities develop and implement a robust Water Management Plan (WMP) to maintain the health and safety of patients, staff, and visitors.  

Considering these responsibilities, here are some water management plan (WMP) goals:

  1. Protecting Immunocompromised Populations: Hospitals are in the business of caring for patients that are susceptible to infections. It is paramount that facilities manage their water systems in a way that protects its patient population. 
  2. Ensuring Safe Drinking Water: Every facility provides access to drinking water.  Managing the delivery of potable water safely helps to mitigate the risk of infection to consumers.
  3. Preventing Healthcare-Associated Infections (HAIs): Healthcare-associated infections are an identified risk and managing those risks is a requirement. Waterborne pathogens can contribute to the spread of infections, particularly through contact with contaminated water sources (i.e. fountains, water displays, cooling towers, etc.). A comprehensive WMP that includes regular testing can help identify potential sources of pathogens and minimize its contribution to HAI.
  4. Complying with Regulatory Standards: Hospitals must comply with Government standards for water management to maintain accreditation, licensure, and certification. 
  5. Mitigating Legal and Financial Risks: Failure to utilize a robust WMP can expose nursing homes and hospitals to legal and financial risks. If a waterborne illness outbreak occurs due to negligence or inadequate water management, facilities may face lawsuits, reputational damage, and substantial financial consequences. Conducting routine water testing and demonstrating proactive measures to ensure water safety can help minimize these risks.

The safety of staff, patients, and guests is of the utmost importance in the healthcare setting. A well designed and consistently implemented water management plan can help ensure that everything is being done to mitigate waterborne pathogens, infections, and maintain regulatory requirements. By investing in a plan, you are protecting everyone within your facility, medically and financially.

Health Trust contracts for water management:

Dale Jones

Chris Connolly
Chemtreat Inc.

Michael Schunk
Corporate Account Manager
NALCO Water / An Ecolab Company

John Reseland
Garratt Callahan Co.
Corporate Accounts Manager

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