Wheelchair cleaning and disinfection in Canadian health care facilities: "That's wheelie gross!"

Am J Infect Control. 2014 Nov;42(11):1173-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ajic.2014.08.007. Epub 2014 Oct 30.


Background: Wheelchairs are complex equipment that come in close contact with individuals at increased risk of transmitting and acquiring antibiotic-resistant organisms and health care-associated infection. The purpose of this study was to determine the status of wheelchair cleaning and disinfection in Canadian health care facilities.

Methods: Acute care hospitals (ACHs), chronic care hospitals (CCHs), and long-term care facilities (LTCFs) were contacted and the individual responsible for oversight of wheelchair cleaning and disinfection was identified. A structured interview was conducted that focused on current practices and concerns, barriers to effective wheelchair cleaning and disinfection, and potential solutions.

Results: Interviews were completed at 48 of the 54 facilities contacted (89%), including 18 ACHs, 16 CCHs, and 14 LTCFs. Most (n = 24) facilities had 50-200 in-house wheelchairs. Respondents were very concerned about wheelchair cleaning as an infection control issue. Specific concerns included the lack of reliable systems for tracking and identifying dirty and clean wheelchairs (71%, 34/48), failure to clean and disinfect wheelchairs between patients (52%, 25/48), difficulty cleaning cushions (42%, 20/48), lack of guidelines (35%, 27/48), continued use of visibly soiled wheelchairs (29%, 14/48) and lack of resources (25%, 12/48).

Conclusion: Our results suggest that wheelchair cleaning and disinfection is not optimally performed at many Canadian hospitals and LTCFs. Specific guidance on wheelchair cleaning and disinfection is necessary.

Keywords: Cleaning; Disinfection; Health care–associated infection; Wheelchair.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Canada
  • Cross Infection / prevention & control*
  • Decontamination / methods*
  • Disinfection / methods*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Wheelchairs / microbiology*