UV Disinfection 

Staffers at Grundy County Memorial Hospital a few months ago rolled a relatively new weapon against infections into the operating room.

And then they rolled it into patients' rooms.

The Steris pathogen disinfection system relies on ultraviolet light to kill germs — and it's on wheels. Appropriately, the manufacturer calls its mobile device "Pathogon".

"Our hospital has one of the best infection rates in the country," CEO Jennifer Havens said, but the medical team looks for ways "to take the best to better."

"And that is always our goal," Havens added.

Though oversimplified, the machine works something like a tanning bed, according to Jessica Eilers, a registered nurse and surgery and patient experience manager at the hospital.

Vertical tubes flood a space with ultraviolet light, the operating room, for instance. According to Steris, the UV rays damage the nucleic acids in microorganisms RNA and DNA, which in turn inhibits their ability to multiply.

The light is effective on bacteria, viruses, fungi and spores — a wide range of pathogens.

"Anywhere the light touches becomes virtually germ-free," according to a statement released by the hospital.

And the system is easy to use, according to Eilers. Wheel the Pathogon into position and control its function remotely using a tablet. The technician then steps outside the room while ultraviolet light bounces around.

A typical cycle takes four minutes. Some rooms may require repositioning and more than one cycle. The operating room, for example, gets bathed in light twice, an eight-minute process, according to Eilers.

The unit cost $50,000 and is one of just a few at work in Iowa. Eilers was part of the nursing leadership team and nursing journal club that investigates best medical practices for the hospital.

"The cost of this is minute compared to one person getting a serious infection," Eilers added.

The team researched the technology and recommended the Steris model, which Eilers discovered also is used at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City.
The Pathogon went into service in November. Eilers expects a review of its effectiveness in six months to a year.

She said she feels employing the technology is a smart move aligned with the hospital staff's overarching mission.

"People trust us when they come here, for us to take care of them," Eilers said.

She also predicts ultraviolet light disinfection will eventually become the standard of care.

"We want to be a step ahead of the game, before it's required. That's how we roll," she added.

The original hospital was built in 1952 and is at 201 E. J Ave. in Grundy Center. Grundy County Memorial Hospital is part of the Unity Point Health system and is affiliated with Unity Point-Allen Hospital in Waterloo, an association that began in 2000-01. The hospital expanded in 2010 and features 25 beds.

Photo and Article provided by The WCF Courier.