April 05, 2021 | | Comments 0
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Forever in debt to your priceless advice…

Continuing on with our discussions of the unusually revelatory April issue of Perspectives, we shall now turn to the life safety-related items, starting with the sweetness of suites (though this may result in some tart-y findings).

One of the most anticipated elements related to the adoption of the 2012 edition of NFPA 101 Life Safety Code® was the full-on acknowledgement of suites. One of things I still find curious/amusing about the whole suite designation thing is there have classically been any number of patient (and other) spaces in healthcare that were clearly designed within the suite concept—even going back to design elements present in the ’70s (yes, I am that old—the ED in the first hospital in which I worked was an area of open patient “positions” with, I think, a trauma room that had a door). The postanesthesia care units (PACU) is the example that springs most quickly to mind—I don’t know that there was ever a time when PACUs were subdivided into individual rooms. From an operational standpoint, the design of a suite makes perfect sense for such care locations. Another area that was frequently “suite-ified” was the critical care unit, though those often had doors, but not necessarily doors that positively latched.

At any rate, one of the primary clear benefits of the suite design is the subtle shifting of “corridors” into “communicating spaces” (and now, as indicated in the April Perspectives, “aisles”), allowing for a fair amount of operational flexibility when it comes to the management of equipment, supplies, etc.  I guess there is something of a quandary when it comes to how much of this information is shared with staff at point of care/point of service—mostly based on the “if you give them an inch…” logical fallacy (more info on that sequence can be found with a web search; I wouldn’t advise it, though, as it is rather a rabbit hole). At any rate, the latest issue of Perspectives is (more or less) throwing down the survey gauntlet when it comes to clear width of spaces within a suite, invoking NFPA 101-2012 7.3.4.1(2), which sets a minimum width of egress at 36 inches in all facilities or portions of facilities classified as a healthcare occupancy. Soooooo, any spaces in which there are fewer than 36 inches of clear width are probably going to be cited; my gut instinct tells me that this will be most relevant to emergency department spaces, where the activities of the day tend to lean towards more blurry lines when it comes to egress paths. The other thought that popped into my head, based on the “portions of facilities classified as a health care occupancy,” is that there may be some patient rooms that might not make the 36 inches between the foot of the bed and the adjacent wall. That may not be an issue, but in my mind’s eye, I can see some tight squeezes…

The other life safety-related item in the April Perspectives deals with the (perhaps final) curtain call for the Building Maintenance Program (BMP) strategy for maintaining certain life safety components. While I can’t necessarily refer to the BMP as an anachronism, it’s been more than a decade since there was an particular survey benefit, though I believe—at least it was the last time I was able to look—the electronic Basic Building Information does include a question asking if the organization is using a BMP. Is anybody willing to hop on their TJC portal to see if the question is still there? That said, I don’t think CMS ever really accepted the concept of the BMP as an alternative means for managing life safety deficiencies (much as the PFI process was eventually kicked to the curb). I just checked the JCR portal for the standards manuals, and the BMP entry is still there, so I guess it’s taking a couple of bows before the curtain comes down for good.

As always, I trust that you all are well and staying safe. I just received my second dose of the vaccine the other day, so hopefully this will make traveling a simpler proposition. I guess every day brings us another day closer, so let’s keep the party going!

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Steve MacArthur About the Author: Steve MacArthur is a safety consultant with The Greeley Company in Danvers, Mass. He brings more than 30 years of healthcare management and consulting experience to his work with hospitals, physician offices, and ambulatory care facilities across the country. He is the author of HCPro's Hospital Safety Director's Handbook and is contributing editor for Briefings on Hospital Safety. Contact Steve at stevemacsafetyspace@gmail.com.

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