area hospitals going ultraviolet to combat spread of infections

It goes without saying that most technological breakthroughs in the medical world are ultimately utilized by physicians, nurses, radiologic technologists or other health care professionals who are specially trained in the complex art of keeping patients healthy and safe.

Interestingly enough, however, hospitals here in Pennsylvania have started implementing a remarkable new medical technology that has not only been shown to help reduce the number of potentially deadly hospital-acquired infections significantly, but which also is used primarily by the environmental services department.

Over the last six months, multiple University of Pittsburgh Medical Center campuses from UPMC Presbyterian and UPMC Montefiore to UPMC Shadyside and UPMC Passavant have been using robotic devices specially designed to eradicate so-called “superbugs,” meaning those bacteria/viruses that are resistant to traditional antibiotics and can prove fatal to hospital patients with already weakened immune systems.

To illustrate how this works, consider the experience of UPMC Passavant, which started using a robot named Violet last month as a means of sterilizing patient rooms. Here, Violet earned its name because it uses ultraviolet C lights to kill any lingering traces of superbugs like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Clostridium difficile (C. diff) and carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) found in hard-to-reach places.

Violet’s “germ-zapping” powers are typically unleashed after an environmental services department employee has thoroughly cleaned and disinfected a patient room in the traditional manner.

Once this is completed, a trained housekeeping employee will roll Violet into a particular location in the patient room where the emitted ultraviolet C light will hit all exposed surfaces, set the machine to run (typically for five minutes), and exit the room for the duration as the light can be hard on human eyes. The process is then repeated in various other parts of the room after each five-minute cycle, with a patient room thoroughly sanitized after roughly 15 minutes.

UPMC Passavant officials have used Violet to sanitize nearly 350 patient rooms, and are still waiting to gather more information before making a fair and accurate assessment as to whether the technology needs to be rolled out to the entire hospital.

“Data will need to be collected and reviewed over a period of time so that we can compare our infection rates pre- and post-implementation of this new technology,” said one official.

It is worth noting that a Texas-based hospital found that C. diff rates dropped by 30 percent after introducing similar robotic sterilization techniques.

Given the altogether staggering rates of deadly hospital-acquired infections, we can only hope that Violet and its robotic counterparts prove effective over the long run and become staples at UPMC campuses.

Remember to consider speaking with a dedicated legal professional if you’ve been victimized or lost a loved one as a result of a hospital-acquired infection. Together, you can discuss your rights and your options for pursuing justice.

Source: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Violet the robot attacks germs at UPMC Passavant,” Yanan Wang, July 9, 2014 

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