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Diederik Gommers: ‘Cleaning is crucial for us’

He is the face of the intensive care units in the Netherlands and was often heard and seen on radio and TV during the past corona year. But he is much more than a spokesman and OMT (Outbreak Management Team) member. In daily life, Diederik Gommers is department head of Surgery, CSA (Centrale Sterilisatie Afdeling [Central Sterilisation Department]) and outpatient treatment at Erasmus MC. We talk to him, between his busy work, about hygiene, disinfection and cleaning. For him, everything revolves around teamwork. ‘We have to do it together. That is applicable for all of the Netherlands in the corona crisis, but it is just as necessary in my hospital.’

Hand hygiene

Diederik Gommers

Due to corona, we had to face the facts. The fight against viruses and infectious diseases will always remain. Had we paid too little attention to hygiene and disinfection perhaps in recent times? According to Gommers, hand hygiene, in particular, made a comeback. ‘Hands are the main cause of transmission of microorganisms such as corona. That is why we must wash our hands. We, as a society, did learn that lesson once again. The fact that there is now almost no flu demonstrates that we can already fight infections reasonably well if we observe basic hygiene.’

New ICU

According to Gommers, the attention paid to hygiene at Erasmus MC was already well in order before corona. Also certainly in the ICU, where this requires extra precision. “We have had a new ICU since 2018, where every patient has his/her own room. Since then, we have achieved a perfect reduction in transmission and there has not been a single outbreak. But then we also had to work incredibly hard. At the time, we went from 44 ICU beds to 100 beds in a short time. Many extra patients, a lot of extra work, a lot of haste. Hygiene in all of those extra rooms had to be optimal.’

Quality of healthcare

The upscaling entailed a need for additional cleaning services. Hago Zorg provides this and other services at Erasmus MC. In order to be able to meet the additional demand, the Vebego company deployed cleaning employees, who normally work at Rotterdam Ahoy, at Erasmus MC. Says Gommers: ‘Hago Zorg trained and scheduled a group of cleaners in no time. We needed that very quickly and at the proper level. Cleaning and disinfection are crucial to us.’ Gommers sees cleaners as part of the team. ‘The work of cleaners is part of our healthcare quality. I know how important the contact is between nurses and cleaners. You must definitely be able to rely on each other in a crisis situation such as this, in which every available room counts.’

Matter of knowledge

Cleaning at Erasmus MC requires teamwork, but it is also a matter of knowledge, says Gommers. ‘You have to know something about how microorganisms are transmitted. The drain of a sink may look clean, but it can still be a major source of contamination. One is primarily concerned with safety and health. That means paying attention to details. For example, not bringing the same wipe from one patient’s room to another patient’s room.’ Gommers suspects that the attention paid to cleaning and hygiene will also increase outside of healthcare in the coming years. ‘When people return to the office soon, the importance of a clean and safe workplace will be a serious issue. Take all those flexible workspaces in offices. They require more attention regarding the danger of transmission.’