July 23, 2014

Orangeburg hospital using UV rays to disinfect rooms

Sonya Ehrhardt, Director of Nurse Utilization, Clinical Administration and Infection Control, and Henry Miller, Director of Environmental Services, demonstrate the TRU-D technology (Courtesy: RMC)

Infections are a serious concern at hospitals. Although only a small number of patients can get them during a hospital stay, healthcare-acquired infections (HAI) are one of the top ten causes of death in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

A hospital in Orangeburg is using a new piece of technology it hopes will cut down on those numbers.

Officials at the Regional Medical Center say the Total Room Ultraviolet Disinfector (TRU-D) can kill the germs a typical cleaning might miss. TRU-D is a 4.5 foot tall, wheeled, cylinder-shaped device that fills a room with blue ultraviolet light, killing any germs that may be left over from a traditional cleaning. The center is the first hospital in the state to use the system.

“I think this is a really big deal,” Dr. John Samies, an infectious disease expert at the center, said, “I think it’s a really big deal in terms of movement towards green ways to do infection control and do it in a very effective way.”

The TRU-D costs $139,000 and can clean about 48 rooms per day, the hospital says. It is switched on after the usual manual cleaning is finished.

Samies says the TRU-D can use the ultraviolet light to kill any bacteria in the room and is sophisticated enough to estimate how long it needs to run. That minimizes the risk to any employees, who cannot be in the room while it runs.

It is also meant to fight a growing number of “superbugs”– pathogens that are resistant to antibiotics and other disinfectants that hospitals traditionally use. “Although some (bacteria) may be slightly more resistant in terms of the amount of energy that has to be given to them… they all pretty much are susceptible to ultraviolet light,” Samies said, “As far as the machine is concerned, there are no superbugs.”

Ultraviolet disinfectors have only recently appeared in the medical industry. Samies said it was previously impractical due to safety concerns and the inability to monitor how much UV energy was needed. However, he said he recently learned about the successful testing of the TRU-D at other hospitals and convinced RMC officials to invest in the device. RMC often promotes its below-average infection rate and its history of pioneering new infection-control techniques.

Samies said he expects other hospitals around the state to eventually use the technology.