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The importance of controlling pollution

The First Congress of Air Conditioning for Clinics and Hospitals held in Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic) on October 15 and 16, left pleasant impressions in the aspect of how this kind of space should pay more attention to the issue of clean environments.

by Karla Hernández*

Santo Domingo. Every year, the treatment and care of hundreds of millions of patients around the world is complicated by infections contracted during medical care. As a consequence, according to data published by the World Health Organization (WHO), the clinical picture of some ailments worsens, to the point of causing disability or death.

In addition to the cost in human lives, health-related infections, also called hospital or nosocomial infections, create an additional economic burden on health systems, the WHO notes, and are caused by situations related to both health systems and processes, as well as individual behaviors.

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Parameters such as temperature and relative humidity affect the rate of nosocomial infections. Microorganisms, mostly harmful, survive longer in very dry or very humid environments; this is why it is important to know and apply the existing regulations for air conditioning systems in hospitals.

The danger of latent contamination, as well as the non-obligatory nature in the Dominican health system to implement the standards and parameters established in the selection, installation and maintenance of thermal systems, motivated the Association of Mechanical Contractors of the Dominican Republic (ACMERD), to hold the I International Congress of Air Conditioning in Clinics and Hospitals. 

It was held in mid-October, was attended by sixteen outstanding speakers from Spain, Italy, the United States, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Argentina and the Dominican Republic. 

The opening speech, by Dr. Paulino Pastor Pérez, consultant and director of Ambisalud, dealt with  the existing standards and environmental parameters to be considered when designing HVAC systems, and also clarified the primary function of these equipment: to ensure comfortable thermohydrometric conditions, guarantee the environmental quality required in each area according to its use and control in the dispersion of pathogens to avoid cross-contamination. 

"Another element to consider in the design of an air conditioning system is that they are facilities that in many cases must work 24 hours every day of the year, therefore the durability and reliability of the facilities must be considered," Pastor recommended.

In the hospital enclosures, he explained, a multitude of activities coexist that are carried out in specific premises destined to them and from the point of view of air conditioning, they must be treated in a differentiated way. 

Within this set of areas, the rooms for patients with special requirements stand out, such as the infectious rooms; and patients diagnosed with airborne diseases, such as tuberculosis or similar. The design of such rooms should provide for the protection of workers and adjacent areas. 

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On the other hand, rooms with a protected environment, normally called immunosuppressed, are also considered. "In this case it is about ensuring a pathogen-free environment to protect immunocompromised patients," he added.

Among the environmental parameters to be taken into account, Pastor Pérez mentioned thermal control, the amount of particles in suspension, noise control, the differential pressure between rooms, the direction and patterns of air flows, and the presence of biopollutants.

Likewise, engineer Jorge Hernández, regional manager of the Price, BAC, Taco and other brands, spoke about design criteria, existing mechanisms to control pollution and current regulations.

The question about how to reduce costs and make resources more efficient without harming patients, medical staff and visitors, was answered by innovair's electrical engineer, Francisco Torres, who detailed the following measures:     

1. For a broader vision of the project and its particular needs, always try to be part of a multidisciplinary staff. Ask how many operating rooms the hospital has and what kind of surgeries will be performed once ready. 

2. Depending on the intervention, the filtration needs change. The highest grades correspond to places where open heart or brain-like operations are performed.

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3. A simple change of schedule in surgeries helps reduce electricity consumption in a hospital. Recommend avoiding trading in the hottest hours of the day.

4. Before choosing the right air conditioning system, research the target audience of the hospital. If mostly women and children come to the venue, choose an air conditioner that generates less BTU. This is because women and children produce less heat.

Carlos Mendoza, president of the Mexican Association of Companies in the Field of Construction Facilities (AMERIC), presented the topic "Creating clean environments in critical areas and laboratories", a practical guide on how to apply current standards and their importance. 

To conclude, Andrés Velázquez, from Colombia, and Paulino Pastor Pérez, from Spain, showed two success stories. The first at the General Hospital in Colombia and the second, in Valladolid. 

The I International Congress of Air Conditioning in Clinics and Hospitals, held in Santo Domingo, was sponsored by Carrier, La Innovación, Innovair, Clima Confort, Refricentro Rubiera, SAEG, Keyter, Mega Air and Refripartes.

* If you want more information about this article consult Karla Hernández at the email [email protected]

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