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Wesley using robot to help in preventing spread of infection

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013, at 6:13 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, at 10:59 a.m.

Wesley Hospital's New Germ-Killing Robot

The Xenex robot fires a series of high intensity ultra violet light pulses to kill bacteria such ...

Wesley Medical Center has a new robot, and its name is Johnny Five.

But it’s a lot different from the ’bot of the same name in the 1986 movie “Short Circuit.”

This robot’s job is to help the hospital kill infectious spores and bacteria – such as Clostridium difficile, also known as C. diff, and it’s the first of its kind in the Wichita area, according to hospital officials.

The robot does not replace routine cleaning methods at the hospital, said Valerie Creswell, Wesley’s infectious disease medical director, but will be an added layer in preventing the spread of infections, which has become more of a focus in recent years.

The mobile machine uses a pulsating purple ultraviolet C light to disinfect the hospital rooms of patients with known infections as well as on a regular basis in operating rooms and other rooms throughout the hospital.

For safety reasons, hospital personnel activate the machine and leave the room. They also put a cone in front of the room to warn people not to enter during the procedure, which takes a few minutes.

“UV A, B and C are produced by the sun, but UVC is reflected by the ozone layer and is screened out, so bacteria and viruses don’t have any defense against it. What we’re doing is artificially making that UVC inside the room,” said Rachael Sparks, technical director for Xenex, which produces and sells the room disinfection system.

Tanning beds produce more UVA and UVB rays, Sparks said.

The machine was developed by Xenex in 2010 and is in more than 200 hospitals across the country, Sparks said. Each robot costs about $115,000, according to hospital officials.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in every 20 hospitalized patients will acquire some sort of infection while in the hospital.

A study published in the August issue of the American Journal of Infection Control showed that using pulsed UV light in hospitals significantly decreased the number of deaths, colectomies and rate of infection from C. diff.

Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Massachusetts was the site of the study from January 2011 to January 2012.

Wesley Medical Center also plans to conduct a study on its C. diff rates now that it has the new machine, Creswell said. She hopes results will be available in about a year.

“We’re going to see what kind of effect it has,” Creswell said of the new equipment.

In Kansas, hospital-acquired infections are not required to be reported to state or federal officials.

However, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has started to require that hospitals begin reporting their infection rates for certain conditions in order to receive reimbursement dollars from those federal programs.

The rates for things like infection from colon and hysterectomy surgeries, central line bloodstream infections and urinary tract infections, along with other quality reporting data, can be found at www.medicare.gov/hospitalcompare.

Reach Kelsey Ryan at 316-269-6752 or kryan@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @kelsey_ryan.

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