Foundation Presents UV Disinfecting Lights to Four Area Hospitals

March 12, 2012

UV light, in lab settings, has been proven to “fry” germs – including killing the spores of hardy Clostridium difficile bacteria.

An effort to ramp up infection prevention practices at four Rochester-area hospitals takes on a new dimension in the coming months, thanks the John and Jayne Summers Foundation’s recent donation of eight UV light machines.

UV light, in lab settings, has been proven to “fry” germs – including killing the spores of hardy Clostridium difficile bacteria, or C. diff, an infection that vexes hospitals, long-term care facilities and communities nationwide. The bowel infection, which triggers colon inflammation and severe diarrhea, can be life-threatening and typically affects older patients undergoing a course of antibiotics. 

“Research shows that UV light is effective at decontaminating a room environment, but this is just one of many fronts when it comes to controlling spread of C. diff. Studies have yet to prove that the technology in turn translates into real safety benefits, actually driving down infection rates in high-risk units of busy, urban hospitals,” said Ghinwa Dumyati, M.D., an associate professor of Medicine at the University of Rochester who directs communicable disease and healthcare associated infections surveillance and prevention at the University’s Center for Community Health.

Ghinwa Dumyati, M.D.

“Our being able to trial these new UV machines is just one more piece of a multi-pronged, cross-hospital campaign to cut the number of C. diff infections in Rochester hospitals – and I think I speak for all of us when I say that we’re sincerely grateful to Mr. Summers for his gift.”

Earlier this year, Unity, Strong Memorial, Highland and Rochester General hospitals each received two R-D Rapid Disinfector systems. Developed and manufactured locally by Steriliz LLC, the machines emit disinfecting ultraviolet-c light (UVC) aimed at killing bacteria and viruses. 

The cost of a bad bacteria

Besides adding tens of thousands of dollars to an admission cost, C. diff bacteria infections can cause potentially life-threatening illness, delaying a patient’s discharge by days and pushing his or her complete recovery back by months.

“Understandably, we’re eager to try new ideas in our effort to prevent infection and protect our region’s patients from needless harm,” Dumyati said.

In fact, that’s the aim of the new Rochester Patient Safety Collaborative – headed by Dumyati – which kicked off last fall. The collaborative, co-led by Rochester General Health System epidemiologist Alexandra Yamshchikov, M.D., aligns CEOs, infection preventionists, hospital epidemiologists and safety experts from Excellus and the four area hospitals receiving UV light machines in a new, citywide effort to fight the infection and reduce Rochester’s burden of hospital C. diff infections by 30 percent in just a few years.

“That goal is aggressive – especially when you consider how hardy C. diff spores are – but it’s in keeping with a national goal set by the Department of Health and Human Services,” Dumyati said.

In addition to deploying and testing new UV light technology for room decontamination (of note, Strong Memorial and Highland hospitals have used similar light machines for years – but the new machines feature special remote sensors that more accurately measure the germicidal energy dose delivered to targeted treatment areas, the new patient safety collaborative is focusing on:

  • Standardizing patient room cleaning protocols (e.g., using bleach) across all four hospitals, and monitoring policy adherence through random environmental testing;
  • Monitoring staff compliance for hand hygiene (far and away the best method for stopping so many infections) and isolation procedures;
  • Assessing the value of a more judicious approach to prescribing antibiotics, and how such “stewardship” affects infection rates.

Duymati has ably led cross-hospital safety programs in the past. In fact, the new C. diff patient safety collaborative follows a proven prevention model that recently helped Rochester-area hospitals reduce rates of another hospital-acquired condition – central line-associated bloodstream infections – by 44 percent just a few years back.

“Rochester is truly a pioneering community,” Dumyati said. “Few regions have competing hospitals that are willing to truly partner to fight infections like C. diff. But it’s precisely this spirit of collaboration – along with the generous gifts of local residents – that will power our success.”

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Becky Jones
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