By Eric Wilkins, Staff Writer
Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) has begun making use of new medical technology to cut down on patient infection rates, with both additions to VGH’s germ-fighting arsenal proving effective thus far.
One of the new methods, developed by Vancouver-based Ondine Biomedical, involves applying a special gel to the inside of a patient’s nose before shining a red light into the area, killing bacteria inside. The painless five-minute procedure’s worst side effect to date, as noted by Dr. Titus Wong, is, “a mild irritation in the back of the throat.” Wong also mentioned the benefits of the procedure (called photo disinfection), saying, “It is not subject to any type of drug resistance and it doesn’t develop drug resistance.”
During the photo disinfection’s trial run, VGH reported a reduction in surgical site infections from 85 to 50, and cases of re-admissions due to infection from four to 1.25 a month on average. The new technology also cut the length of time patients spent in the hospital in general, providing the hospital with the ability to perform 138 more surgeries than would have been possible otherwise. While the program costs approximately $500,000 to run, it saved the hospital $1.9 million.
The other disinfection tool, currently in a five-month pilot project phase, is a 5’4” robot called the TRU-D SmartUVC. Popularly described as a tall R2-D2 with long glowing tubes for a body, the UV-light emitting robot operates by being wheeled into a room (it cannot move independently) and then being activated via remote control. The room will then be bathed in ultraviolet rays for 15 minutes to an hour. While the unit delivers additional disinfection, it is not designed to be a replacement for regular cleaning; the space which it is deployed in must have been already cleaned.
David Carpenter, president of ARAMARK Healthcare, Vancouver Coastal Health’s contracted cleaning company, commented on using TRU-D: “We selected TRU-D for its proven performance and ability to destroy superbugs. We are at the leading edge of innovative infection prevention practices in Canada, our training, technology, cleaning products, and quality assurance processes are designed to work in close coordination with our hospital partner’s infection prevention teams.”
Dr. Elizabeth Bryce, the medical director for infection control at Vancouver Coastal Health, was pleased with the performance of TRU-D to date. “We’ve been very impressed with the almost complete eradication of organisms, even when we take it to high concentrations. We hope it will decrease the rates of hospital-acquired organisms like superbugs.”
The technology will reportedly cost about $100,000 per unit, and the hospital plans to test a similar device, PulseRx before making a final decision.