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Patient safety enhanced by new sterile services department

22 September 2020

New, cutting-edge washer disinfectors and specially designed lifts where clean goods are separated from the used goods. St. Erik Eye Hospital’s new premises guarantee a higher level of sterilisation and improved patient safety.

En man och en kvinna i sjukhusuniform som jobbar i en sterilcentral.

St. Erik's new sterile services department is absolutely top class, says Sara Meurling, auxialiary nurse, and Andreas Bolin, manager of the sterile services department at St. Erik Eye Hospital.

One storey above the operating theatres of St. Erik, a brand new sterile services department stretches out across almost half the floor. In here, sterile services technicians wash, sterilise and assemble instruments for ophthalmic surgery.

Our new sterile services department is a massive improvement. In the past, we have provided a good quality of sterilisation in compliance with regulations, but now, we have access to brand new machines that prepare us for forthcoming requirements, says sterile services manager Andreas Bolin.

As part of the relocation of St. Erik Eye Hospital, new top of the line washer disinfectors and autoclaves have been purchased. The machines will signal with an alarm if instruments for some reason have not been thoroughly disinfected.

In our computer system, we can see if the machines are doing their job and that they maintain the correct temperature. This improves our control and helps us ensure that the items leaving the machines have been properly cleaned, in accordance with the strict requirements, says Andreas Bolin.

Sara Meurling and Andreas Bolin inspect the cleanliness of the instruments that have been disinfected. Photo: Jens Sølvberg

As result of rising resistance to antibiotics across society, the requirements set on washing and sterilisation continue to grow stricter. This new investment promotes patient safety and reduces risk of infections.

Two separate lifts connect the sterile services department with the surgical department, where one lift transports contaminated goods, and the other sterilised goods.

Everything flows along a designated track, in order to avoid cross contamination, says auxiliary nurse Sara Meurling, who has been responsible for the details in planning the new sterile services department.

In preparation for an ophthalmic surgery, the sterile services staff assemble the correct instruments, and, in addition, arrange clean coats and gloves that will go in the clean lift. On the surgery floor, sterile technicians arrange all items in a special preparation room, before wheeling them into the operating theatres.

When the surgery is completed, the surgical staff send back all used instruments, using the contamination lift. The sterilisation staff then place the goods in a loader carriage that automatically goes into the washer disinfectors. 

There is no need for manual loading. In addition, we will get new technological devices like height-adjustable sinks to improve ergonomics, says Sara Meurling.

Before the move, contaminated goods had to go into the lift on the same side as where clean goods were disembarked. Now, when the washers have done their job – and the goods are top-quality cleaned, the washer opens on the opposite side, in another room, the so-called packing room.

In the packing room, people in scrubs inspect every instrument with a microscope, to check for dirt, rust or ruptures in the metal, says Andreas Bolin.

Sara Meurling inside the new cabinet disinfector. Photo: Jens Sølvberg

After this process, the bacteria are gone, but some spores remain. In order to prepare the instruments for operation one crucial step remains, the sterilisation process. Most non-plastic instruments can be steamed in aluminium boxes called containers.

Previously, we would wipe down the containers by hand. But now, we can wash them in one of our two new cabinet washer disinfectors. This leads to a much higher degree of patient safety, explains Sara Meurling.

After all these processes, the goods are once again sterile and ready for the next surgery.

Text: Maja Lundbäck