DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – In an effort to quickly and safely reuse and conserve personal protective equipment, Premier Health has started sanitizing and sterilizing their N95 masks in-house.
These respirators are able to be sanitized ten times before having to be discarded.
The new capability is because of an emergency and temporary approval from the FDA to companies, like Steris, to sterilize N95 respirators.
Mary Garman, the Chief Operating Officer of Miami Valley Hospital North, said Steris is the manufacturer of the machines that Premier Health already uses to sanitize their instruments.
“They package each of these devices (masks) into a package with a quality check stick in there, it’s a tray that you slide in and run the cycle like a dishwasher and then when they pull it out, they look at that stick to make sure it has passed,” said Garman.
Garman said the result is a faster turnaround while still ensuring safe reuse of these N95 respirators.
“We’re able to process ten masks at a time and it’s about a 28 minute cycle for each mask processing,” said Garman.
Before this, Premier Health was sending their masks to Battelle Labs to be sterilized for reuse.
Garman said they will probably continue that because they need all the help they can get.
“I would envision because of the high usage of these respirators that we will be using both processes, but this allows us a quicker turnaround,” said Garman.
But Garman said not all masks make the cut to be sterilized.
“We have to look and inspect the masks for things like evidence of particles, blood, makeup, those tend to be the problematic masks that we will not be able to reprocess,” said Garman.
Aside from the faster turn around time of sterilizations, there is another perk of sterilizing masks in-house. Now Premier Health employees are able to write their names on their masks and have them returned to them after the cleaning process.
“Just gives them an ease of mind that ‘this is mine, I’m the only one that has used this, it’s not been reprocessed and used by someone else,” said Garman.
The initiative is first being piloted at Upper Valley Medical Center and at Miami Valley Hospital’s main campus. Premier Health’s other hospital campuses, free-standing emergency departments, Fidelity Health Care, Premier Health Urgent Cares, and specimen collection site at UD Arena are expected to follow suit soon.
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