St. Dominic's Becomes First Hospital in US to Install Innovative Sterilization System

St. Dominic's recently became the first hospital in the nation to install the Getinge Air Glide Shuttle System (AGS) along with state-of-the-art washers/disinfectors' one of the most comprehensive, advanced sterilization systems in the world.
With the number of surgery cases at St. Dominic's continually growing, the demand on the central sterilization system by which thousands of pieces of surgical instrumentation are cleaned and sterilized has dramatically increased. Administration and surgery officials at St. Dominic Hospital decided the time was right for an upgrade of the central sterilization equipment used to sterilize thousands of surgical instruments each week.
St. Dominic's Central Sterilization Department is responsible among many other duties for the cleaning, decontamination and sterilization of all surgical instruments for the hospital. The increased productivity in surgery accentuated the need for more advanced equipment, said Heather Boling, RN, Director of Surgical Services.
 "The older system required staff to place equipment by hand in the washers, move components to other stages in the process and then lift heavy baskets filled with instruments. This was a time-consuming process that took a physical toll on employees. Some of the baskets weigh 30-40 pounds, and over the course of one day, moving these around decreased productivity and lowered employee morale. Also, when an individual chamber broke down, the entire system slowed down. During these periods our staff had no choice but to strain the capacity limits of the remaining equipment in the effort to keep up with the demand for instrumentation,' said Boling.
Boling and other St. Dominic's officials visited a Toronto, Canada hospital to view the operation of the first Getinge system in North America. After viewing firsthand the efficiencies and superior sterilization methods the Canadian hospital utilized, Boling and other officials were impressed but didn't fully realize the effect the system would have on St. Dominic's Surgery Department.
 "While we liked what we saw, it was only after the system was up and running at St. Dominic's we really appreciated what a difference the system would make. Now we can handle today's work, as well as future growth, with confidence."
St. Dominic's made a $1 million investment that included the integration of a series of Getinge washer/disinfectors and Air Glide Shuttle System, along with renovation of the Central Sterilization Department. The department now does far less manual cleaning and sees the benefits of the system's cleaning methodology that delivers superior efficacy in removing contaminants.
"The system's performance has been everything we were told it would be," Boling said. "The power and automation of the washers/disinfectors exceeds our former equipment, and the sterilization process can be completed without the need of staff interaction, eliminating any risk of cross contamination. Overall, unscheduled downtime has been eliminated and the system has proven to be a tremendous morale and productivity booster," added Boling.
St. Dominic's new washer/disinfector is the only unit of its kind that offers larger unobstructed racks to accommodate orthopedic sets, anesthesia/respiratory sets, sterilization containers and larger utensils. Multiple spray arms between each level of goods help provide unmatched cleaning of a wide variety of goods, regardless of where they are placed on the wash carts. In addition, the unit's highly efficient and energy-saving heat transfer technology reduces process times, while the drying module's HEPA filter cleans the drying air.
The integrated AGS System has been developed to automate and improve throughput of multiple washers/disinfectors while conserving valuable floor space. The AGS System also reduces the need for handling and lifting, reducing stress and strain on employees.
A single shuttle smoothly moves along the soiled side of the aligned washer/disinfectors. Another shuttle operates along the clean side. Wash carts are placed on a loading conveyor at a single point and don't have to be manually moved again. As soon as a washer/disinfector has completed a cycle, the AGS shuttle automatically delivers the next soiled load to the next available washer and automatically inserts the load into the chamber. The AGS program automatically closes the chamber door, selects the correct cycle for the processing cart and automatically starts the cycle.
When a surgical set is needed "STAT," the AGS system can be paused and manually loaded to place emergency sets ahead of the automated line.
According to Boling, the knowledge St. Dominic's is equipped with the most up-to-date washer/disinfectors makes a huge difference, both in terms of performance and in how it affects employee attitudes.
"Our surgeons depend on central sterilization to provide the most sterilized equipment possible," Boling said. "With this new system, we know this is happening without any human interaction or production lags. This allows us to perform our jobs with the knowledge that instrumentation is available 24 hours day, seven days a week when we need it. This in turn benefits our patients, and that's our primary goal."