In The News

Cincinnati hospitals deploy germ-busting ultraviolet devices

January 28, 2014  |  West Chester Hospital
West Chester Hospital

Cincinnati Business Courier

West Chester Hospital is among several area medical centers that have begun using devices that emit ultraviolet light to disinfect operating rooms and patient rooms.

The cylindrical devices, which stand about 5 feet tall, look like giant bug zappers. They are deployed after normal maintenance by janitorial crews because organisms that cause infections can become resistant to institutional cleaning chemicals.

The hospital in Butler County bought two of the devices from Infection Prevention Technologies of Auburn Hills, Mich. The hospital began using the devices the week of Jan. 21. Administrators are considering buying more. They reportedly cost about $90,000 apiece.

The University of Cincinnati Medical Centerbegan using three of the devices on Jan. 6, and the Daniel Drake Center for Post-Acute Care began using one this month. Like West Chester Hospital, those two medical centers are part of the UC Health system.

“Patient safety is our number 1 concern,”Diana Lara, a spokeswoman for the UC Medical Center, said of why UC Health began using the so-called Intelligent Room Sterilization System.

The UV-C energy devices, which use shortwave ultraviolet radiation that replicates the light of the sun, “deactivate the DNA of bacteria, viruses and other pathogens and thus destroy their ability to multiply,” according to Infection Prevention Technologies. “In fact, when the organism tries to replicate, it dies.”

West Chester Hospital was “looking for … methods to protect our patients from the potential for infection by minimizing exposure to infectious organisms such as bacteria, viruses and spores,” said Linda Jamison, a registered nurse who is an infection prevention specialist.

The heavy devices stand on a base with wheels so cleaning crews can easily move them to different rooms.

The two units at West Chester Hospital – dubbed Bonnie and Clyde by the staff – are used at the same time to maximize the sanitizing impact on a room. Cleaning crews program the devices, then leave the room and seal it with tape to prevent light escaping.

“There is a wireless remote,” hospital spokeswoman Debra Titlebaum said. “You can leave the room to program it, or do it when standing right by the thing. The remote will go through a series of questions. What are the dimensions of the room? Is the room sealed off? What do you want to achieve? And what are the authorization codes?

However, some “rooms are bar coded so the user can just scan to clean rather than run through the setup sequence,” she said.

“UV is pretty dangerous to humans,” Titlebaum said. “You can look at it through glass but can’t be in the room. It penetrates into all the nooks and crannies.”

Cleaning crews have protective eyewear, and “the machine automatically shuts off if the door to the room is open,” said Lara, the spokeswoman for the UC Medical Center.

The devices run for about an hour, depending on the dimensions of the room.

According to Infection Prevention Technologies, an estimated 1.7 million infections each year are associated with health care in U.S. hospitals. Each case can cost a hospital anywhere from $10,500 to $111,000, which adds up to $30 billion annually. Such infections also result in 99,000 deaths a year.

“We’re known for patient safety,” Titlebaum said of West Chester Hospital. “This fit in beautifully for what we feel our brand is.”