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Keeping hospital staff safe with PPE

Sentara Healthcare has begun reprocessing certain personal protective equipment, or PPE, as a way to sterilize and preserve limited PPE supplies and ensure the safety of its health care teams during the coronavirus pandemic, Sentara announced in a press release Wednesday.

“We have studied and tested the process, and we are confident it will keep our employees safe and properly protected,” the press release states.

Sterilization and reprocessing is a routine practice in health care, with surgical tools, endoscopy instruments, and other equipment being re-used daily after thorough cleaning and sterilization using standardized methods, the press release states.

“We are confident the process we are using will keep our employees safe and extend the life of limited PPE supplies,” Mary Morin, vice president of clinical effectiveness for Sentara Healthcare, states in the press release. “Safety is our first priority for patients and employees, and this is one method we can use to achieve that goal during this extraordinary time when we all have to think creatively.”

Sentara is reprocessing N-95 respirator masks, surgical masks, and non-paper impermeable surgical gowns. Items deemed appropriate are collected from Sentara hospitals and freestanding emergency departments through the hospital system and sent to a “trusted vendor,” the press release states.

Sterilization involves a seven-and-a-half-hour “hydrogen peroxide vapor sterilization process,” followed by CDC-approved “geobacillus spore testing,” the latter being the most accepted means of monitoring sterilization, according to the press release.

“Infectious disease specialists at Sentara studied CDC guidelines, evaluated other healthcare system reprocessing methods and conducted internal testing of reprocessed materials, and they endorse the use of hydrogen peroxide vapor,” the press release states. “Duke, Yale, Emory and Battelle Medicine are currently using this type of sterilization process. It takes about 10 days to collect, reprocess and redistribute the appropriate materials across the system.”

Sentara Healthcare is currently accepting material supply donations, especially the following PPE items:

  • Masks (N95 or disposable face masks)
  • Nitrile gloves
  • Impervious gowns (level one to level four)
  • Disposable shoe covers
  • Fog-free face shields
  • Goggles

Sentara is also accepting individually wrapped food donations from a licensed vendor or restaurant. Homemade food or communal food items such as platters will not be accepted.

Visit mealtrain.com/w13og0 for more information on signing up to provide meals, and call Sentara Obici Incident Command at 934-4532 to find out more about PPE donations and thank you cards.

Visit sentara.com/coronavirus for more on how people can support their Sentara hospital system doctors, nurses and other health care workers.