Valley View turns to ultraviolet light to fight infection
Valley View Hospital is taking the cleansing power of light to a new level with the addition an ultraviolet system to reduce infections, which the hospital says is the first of its kind on Colorado’s Western Slope.
Health-care-associated infections are a major challenge for hospitals around the country. A 2014 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey of 11,282 patients across 183 hospitals found that 452 — about one in 25 — had one or more infections when they left the hospital that they didn’t check in with.
“It’s a critically important issue,” said Nancy Foster, vice president of quality and patient safety for the American Hospital Association. “We have to work very, very hard to make sure hospitals are a sterile, clean environment.”
Rigorous sanitization programs help filter air, and keep tools, linens and surfaces clean, but it’s nearly impossible to keep germs out entirely. They are carried by staff, visitors and other patients.
“Each and every one of us has germs on our body. Without ever intending to transmit it, you can inadvertently do so,” said Foster.
Some of the responsibility falls on visitors themselves. Foster urged hospital visitors to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer, and not to visit at all if they have something that might spread.
“Many of our patients are particularly vulnerable to their disease while they’re in the hospital,” she said. “Even if your loved one could get by with exposure, someone else might not.”
Another challenge is the constant introduction of new technology that, though beneficial, can prove hard to clean. Recently, a series of antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections were attributed to duodenoscopes, remote cameras that have proved tricky to sanitize.
Such issues have been relatively rare at Valley View.
A useful metric is Clostridium difficile, an opportunistic bacteria that often flares up after a regimen of antibiotics and accounts for around 12 percent of hospital infections.
According to a recent Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment report, 1,177 C. diff infections were reported statewide from August 2013 to July 2014, a time period that represents 1.6 million patient days. Of those, just four occurred at Valley View.
The study also broke infections down by procedure, regardless of disease. Of 41,103 knee replacements performed over the course of three years, 294 resulted in infection, one of them at Valley View.
That’s a pretty good track record, but there’s room for improvement.
“One health-care-associated infection is one too many,” said Dewane Pace, chief of ancillary operations at Valley View. “People come to us to be healed, not to get sick.”
Valley View’s solution is a portable device that produces UV-C light to sterilize operating suites, equipment and patient rooms.
UV-C has a shorter wavelength than the familiar UV-A from black lights and tanning beds, which in turn is shorter than visible light. You don’t have to worry about a UV-C sunburn since it doesn’t make it through the Earth’s atmosphere, but artificially produced UV-C wreaks havoc on harmful microbes — including those with antibiotic resistance. Unlike some other forms of sanitization, such as hydrogen peroxide vapor, UV devices can cleanse a whole room at once.
The relatively inexpensive $40,000 price point for the Clorox Healthcare Optimum-UV system was just one of several reasons for Valley View’s choice.
“We thought it was the simplest, easiest to use and most effective model,” Pace explained.
The 6-foot-tall device can sanitize an 8-foot radius, making it possible to clean a patient room in three- to five-minute cycles. It comes with several safety features to prevent human exposure, including motion sensors and a spy movie-style countdown.
Valley View plans to start using the machine in September once staff is thoroughly trained on its operation.
“Initially we will be using the device for high-risk rooms, such as patient isolation, intensive care unit and surgical suites,” said Trish Cerise, infection prevention coordinator.
She emphasized that UV-C won’t replace any current sterilization protocol, but instead represents another layer of protection.
“That extra step should give patients some peace of mind,” said Pace. “It certainly does for us.”
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