Each year over two million American patients acquire a healthcare-associated infection (HAI). These HAIs delay recovery, significantly increase the cost of healthcare and in tens of thousands of cases, result in death. Construction workers can help reduce the incidence of HAIs as well as other problems that affect patient care during construction such as noise, vibration and odors. Sheet Metal Workers Local #25 New Jersey has prioritized training and credentialing its members through the Green Advantage Pre-construction Risk Assessment/Infection Control Risk Assessment (PCRA/ICRA) Certificate Program. Greg Conte, their Organizer, explains why this Program should be required for all construction personnel who work on healthcare construction projects.
What prompted your interest in the PCRA/ICRA Certificate Program?
Greg Conte: We wanted to enhance the training and credentialing of our union members. Our President and Business Manager, Joseph Demark, Jr., reached out to John Decina and Karen Huff at GreenPath who were delivering the PCRA/ICRA Certificate Program training. Joe reviewed their backgrounds and recommended that we engage them to provide the training and credentialing through Green Advantage.
We are committed to getting our members trained and credentialed to ensure the highest quality health care facility construction. Joe recognized the importance of the PCRA/ICRA Certificate Program to the quality of service we deliver and strongly advocated for making sure our union members are up-to-date and credentialed. As I do, Joe strongly believes in the importance of the PCRA/ICRA Certificate Program. He is now working to see that it is required legislatively in NJ.
How many of your union members have taken the training and passed the assessment in order to become PCRA/ICRA credentialed?
Greg Conte: We cover 8 Counties in NJ. So far we have over 100 trained and credentialed. I’m pleased that we also have some owners and foremen trained and credentialed.
What are some of the PCRA/ICRA challenges faced by the contractor community?
Greg Conte: We need health care facility legislation that protects patients, the general public and construction workers. But legislators aren’t familiar with the risks and how health care construction workers can help reduce them.
You go down the block and there is only one bagel place and you buy from them. We have a similar situation with hospitals, you have one in your area and you go there when you need help. Yet, if you speak with people about their hospital stays, you may hear about infections they or other patients they knew developed. And the infection didn’t have anything to do with the reason they were admitted. In some cases you may hear that they were even discharged early to avoid infection.
And it’s not just infection control issues that are a problem. I can remember in one hospital, I heard an air hammer going on the floor above the emergency room and saw friable materials flying around in the emergency room. Although there was some plastic draped around the construction, it wasn’t enough. Patients entering the emergency room were exposed to the noise, the dust and the vibration.
What do you see happening to improve health care construction in the future?
Greg Conte: Unfortunately the problems that can be addressed by PCRA/ICRA training and credentialing are only getting worse. We have new diseases that challenge us and are likely to have more as the climate changes and as immunity to current antibiotics increases. This means that even more emphasis needs to be placed on PCRA/ICRA training and credentialing. We are proud that Sheet Metal Workers Union Local # 25 North Jersey gives high priority to addressing this public health and safety concern. It’s in everyone’s best interest.