Taking aim at germs: New UV machine is part of infection-fighting effort

Tavontae Cannon, a member of Upstate's housekeeping staff, inspects the new ultraviolet cleaning towers at Upstate University Hospital.(PHOTO BY ROBERT MESCAVAGE)

Tavontae Cannon, a member of Upstate’s housekeeping staff, inspects the new ultraviolet cleaning towers at Upstate University Hospital. (PHOTO BY ROBERT MESCAVAGE)

Staff who clean patient rooms at Upstate University Hospital have a new method of preventing hospital-acquired infections: three towers that emit short-wavelength ultraviolet light that kills or inactivates microorganisms.

The new Surfacide system is employed, after routine cleaning and disinfection, in rooms that housed patients with contagious infections such as Clostridium difficile, an intestinal infection that can be life-threatening. In the future, the system may be used to clean operating rooms, public bathrooms and elevator cars.

Studies have shown that implementing UV cleaning reduces infection rates and improves patient safety, says Paul Suits, director of infection control at Upstate University Hospital. He says the environmental cleaning staff are “essential to the hospital’s goal to provide a clean, safe environment for our patients.”

With the three towers working together, one room can be cleaned in about 20 minutes, says Jason Rupert, assistant director of outpatient operations and materials for environmental services.

After an unoccupied room is disinfected, a staffer will wheel in the UV towers and position them so their light will reach the maximum amount of surfaces. Curtains are drawn, doors are shut, and the staffer activates the units from outside the room. The rotating towers bathe the room in UV-C light. This process provides an additional level of disinfection beyond traditional cleaning methods.

Did you hear?

Upstate University Hospital was recently praised by the state Health Department for reducing central-line infections in intensive care units. Central lines are the tubes inserted into a vein to give medicines or fluids or to draw blood. They can also be an entry point for infections.

Upstate reduced those infections by 70 percent in 2014, the state noted in a January report on hospital-acquired infections in New York. The hospital was singled out for “outstanding work” and its multifaceted approach in fighting infections, which stemmed from a task force established three years ago.

Layout 1 finalThis article appears in the spring 2016 issue of Upstate Health magazine.

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