Healthcare and Mummies

By Rachel Stewart | July 24, 2018 |

Did you hear about the 2000-year-old sarcophagus they found in Egypt this month?

It’s actually the largest ancient coffin ever found in the region. Because of the size and scale of the tomb and the large granite box holding the preserved mummy, there is lots of speculation that it contains the remains of somebody who was pretty important a long time ago. Maybe even Alexander the Great!

Of course, there is only one way to find out who’s actually in there: you’ve got to open the box…dun, dun, dun. This undertaking is fraught with complications, both real and imagined, and while the coffin has not yet been opened, there are now plans to do exactly that.

This has led to some pretty hilarious comments on social media:

“A sarcophagus with this kind of weight and a lid that heavy is made for one reason—to keep whatever spirit is in there from ever getting out,” one person wrote on Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities Facebook page.

Another tweeted, “This is probably fine, and definitely not the thing that happens right before the foolhardy archaeologists ignore the ancient prophecy and unleash our doom.”

But my favorite was the tweet that said, “If we’ve learned anything from every Mummy movie of the last 100 years, it’s that this sarcophagus must not be opened.”

I don’t know how legitimate the risks are for opening this sarcophagus and triggering the apocalypse, but these humorous tweets made me think about our high-risk restoration projects, particularly in healthcare settings.

When we are doing remediation or restoration work for a high-risk loss, there are lots of factors to keep in mind. Given the unique nature of healthcare restoration projects, one of the most important considerations is minimizing risk for the client. This starts with infection control. Unlike opening a sarcophagus possibly holding Alexander the Great’s remains, there are actual real and present dangers to your technicians, construction crew, and supervisors, as well as to hospital staff, patients, and visitors, when you perform remediation or restoration work in a hospital or healthcare environment.

We have found lots of success in the healthcare restoration setting and have found several things to be particularly useful during these projects:

1.     Consider Yourself Part of the Clinical Team – As contractors working in a healthcare setting, we always consider ourselves part of the clinical team as we manage risks and eliminate any possibility of infection or contamination.

Many articles have established a direct link between poorly managed construction projects and infection. As contractors, recognize that you play a vital role in patient safety. All infection risks need to be properly assessed and managed from the very beginning of the project. Always ensure that your team is in compliance with any federal or state regulatory standards and any unique, in-house policies as well.

Having the mindset that you are part of the clinical team, tasked with protecting and serving patients, will help keep compliance, cleanliness, and containment as your top priorities throughout the project.

2.     Perform Risk Assessment – There is a detailed process called Infection Control Risk Assessment (ICRA) that needs to be performed before you start any project. It starts with training by creating a multi-disciplinary team with experts in infection control, construction, facility management, and medical experts and staff from the affected departments.

This team can make recommendations and voice concerns about air quality, infectious disease threats, noise issues, possible vibration complications, utilities management, and conducting the project while still maintaining the ability to provide medical care.

This preemptive work allows any potential negative impacts from the project to be identified early and mitigated as much as possible.

3.    Stay Current – Changes and improvement in technology, equipment, and containment methods, greatly enhance our ability as contractors to safely perform our remediation work. New techniques and advanced equipment are always being developed. Staying current with the latest resources, helps your team and the customer you are serving.

Using high quality, innovative equipment makes our work safer and cleaner and more efficient, all with less risk and better outcomes. Our team also undergoes ongoing training and continuing education to stay up-to-date on the latest methods and practices being used in the industry.

As contractors we can make a big impact on the safety and liability concerns of the healthcare companies we work for. We have an enormous responsibility to be aware of all the risks involved and eliminate or mitigate exposure to these in every way we can for the safety of our team, the hospital and medical staff, as well as patients and their families. Let’s just say, that it is not quite as entertaining to unleash the equivalent an ancient sarcophagus on our communities as movies would lead you to believe. Keep it tight, keep it clean, keep it safe!