ORANGEBURG, S.C., Feb. 29 (UPI) -- U.S. doctors or nurses are often cited for excellence, but environmental services staff are now getting their due for keeping hospitals clean, officials say.
Karren Keitt, a member of the environmental services team at the Regional Medical Center in Orangeburg, S.C., has been named this year's recipient of the Hygiene Specialist Excellence award, sponsored by UMF Corp.
George Clarke, chief executive officer of UMF, said the award, in its second year, was established to acknowledge the contribution of environmental services, the first line of defense in providing a safe patient environment and reducing healthcare-acquired infections.
Healthcare-associated infections in U.S. hospitals cost about $40 billion a year, said a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
"We want environmental services employees to be recognized for their critical role as the 'first line of defense' in reducing the risk of healthcare-acquired infections and ensuring a safe patient environment," Clarke said in a statement.
This award comes as more hospitals are beginning to realize that environmental hygiene can play a significant role in improving patient satisfaction scores, Clarke said.
"At the end of the day, it is people like Karren Keitt who make the difference on many different levels -- infection prevention, patient satisfaction and ultimately a hospital's bottom line," Clarke added.