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Patient Safety in Healthcare Design

By Mario Pistone, Vice President, Parkin Architects Limited

Although the threat of Ebola in North America remains very low, it is on the minds of healthcare professionals and the media.  The dominant message must be that our hospitals are ready to face it, as learned through investments made in healthcare facilities and lessons learned from outbreaks of the past.

Thanks to the research and the work of those examining previous events in infection control, such as SARS, today’s facilities are better prepared to contain outbreak threats.


SARS Highlights Key Shortfalls in Infection Control

Patient safety was redefined in Ontario after the events of 2003, when SARS left behind a tragic path of loss and sacrifice amongst patients and caregivers.  In 2004, the SARS commission headed by Dr. David Walker issued a report that presented recommendations to the Minister of Health to ensure better preparedness in the face of a future pandemic.  Their report was dedicated to those who suffered loss as a result of SARS, and the brave healthcare providers who dealt with the disease.

The most significant impact to the way we design and build hospitals came in the recommendations on infection control:

“SARS highlighted to the Panel key shortfalls in areas such as infection control standards, human resources, facility design, and infection control training.” -2003 Walker Panel Report[i]

Revising the Standards of Patient Safety

In the years following, healthcare providers and designers revised standards to bolster the ability of hospitals to manage Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC), and improve the safety of patients, their families, visitors and caregivers.

Parkin played a role in shaping a number of healthcare design initiatives in Canada to develop a framework for healthcare planning, design and construction, in aims to deliver facilities that provide healthcare facilities that complement operational developments in infection prevention and control.

The MOHLTC hired Parkin to participate in a team of consultants who created the General Output Specifications in 2008.  This was part of a government initiative to increase patient safety through the prevention of infectious diseases spreading within hospital settings, as well as reducing the opportunities for Hospital Acquired Infections.  The CSA issued standards[ii] for IPAC during construction in Hospitals – CAN/CSA Z317.13 in 2007. The improvements incorporated into CAN/CSA Z8000, issued in 2011, provided additional information on minimum spaces and departmental organization, contributing to facility design that better complements IPAC and healthcare delivery operations.



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