Raising the Bar for Patient Safety: New Sterile Processing Department

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As part of their training, SHS associates visited the Sterile Processing Department at North Kansas City Hospital. Here they are in the Decontamination Room where full Personal Protective Equipment (called PPE) is required to minimize the risk of exposure to hazards. From left, Debbie Meads, Program Manager; Veronica Sosa, Medical Assistant; Chris Roseberry, Clinic Manager; Sherry Rider, Medical Assistant

Swope Health Services has launched a state-of-the-art sterile processing area at Central and Wyandotte locations.

The new Sterile Processing department is similar to centers housed in large hospitals.

The purpose is to assure patient safety in the decontamination of all reusable instruments used in medical and dental procedures.

“We’re raising the bar for community health centers,” said Debbie Meads, program manager, who directed the construction of the department.

The project involved changes to the Central clinic environment, water and air handling, as well as to the transportation and storage of instruments.

The project also included an education plan for all associates who work with reusable instruments and special training for about 10 associates in proper disinfection and sterilization of reusable instruments.

These associates now serve as sterilization processing technicians.

“Other than handwashing, sterilization is the next most important thing to consider in infection control,” said Kenneth Thomas, M.D., Chief Medical Officer and a practicing pediatrician.

“It is vital to make sure our instruments are sterile, and how we handle and clean contaminated equipment is just as important. It’s important to the safety of our patients, associates and families.”

Prior to the development of the Sterile Processing areas, equipment was sterilized in autoclaves or small steam chambers in various clinics.

The new department creates greater efficiency and assures consistent practice in the decontamination and sterilization of all materials, under the same standards, every day.

“Our program is important in delivering excellent patient care,” said Dr. Thomas. “It demonstrates our commitment to reducing and controlling infection.”

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A peek inside the new Sterile Processing Department on the second floor at SHS Central where, from left, Jaleeah Jones and Flora Wooster, Sterile Processing Technicians, are preparing reusable instruments for sterilization. This is a special room with its own heating, cooling and ventilation system. It is pressure-controlled, with special air exchange capability to completely exchange all the air in the room 10 times an hour, 24 hours a day. This secure room with these special capabilities assures that no contamination – pathogens or germs – can enter or escape from the processing units.

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