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A blast from the past boosts PPE recycling efforts


At its Regional Operations Center in West Haven, YNHHS is using hydrogen peroxide vapor to sterilize recycled N95 respirators. Sterile Processing staff sort and hang used respirators on racks in a specially outfitted room, then let the Bioquell vaporizer work for five hours.

Fifteen years ago, a device that looked a little like R2D2 from Star Wars was rolled into an empty patient care area at the former Hospital of Saint Raphael, turned on and left to do its work.

Saint Raphael’s was the first U.S. hospital to use the device and accompanying equipment, part of the Bioquell Room Biodecontamination Service, to remove infectious microorganisms from patient rooms that regular cleaning couldn’t eliminate. Since then, hospitals worldwide have been using similar systems to deep clean patient care areas.

Now, in the midst of a pandemic that has caused critical shortages of personal protective equipment at hospitals across the globe, the latest generation of that R2D2 device is being used to sterilize N95 respirators for Yale New Haven Health clinicians.

A recent study at Yale New Haven Hospital showed that the cleaning method Bioquell uses – vaporized hydrogen peroxide – was highly effective at eliminating three different viruses that were chosen as good proxies for SARS-CoV-2. The preliminary study results prompted Yale New Haven Health to turn a room at its Resource Operations Center (ROC) in West Haven into an N95 mask decontamination space. Construction crews had to follow strict specifications, including ensuring the ceiling is low enough to maintain the right concentration of hydrogen peroxide in the room, and sealing the windows to create a negative air pressure environment.

bulletin041620Staff and physicians at YNHHS hospitals are asked to deposit used masks that are not visibly soiled into recycling bins in patient care areas. The masks are collected and brought to the ROC for decontamination, which takes about five hours. YNHHS could ultimately clean 100,000 N95 respirators a week.

“Depositing used masks in the recycling bins in patient care areas is the most important step in the process,” said Margaret Cintron, YNHH director, Central Sterile Services, and a member of the research team. “It’s going to take all of us to make this work, and make a difference during this critical time.”

“Kudos to the Central Sterile Supply team, who went above and beyond to implement this process at the ROC,” said Lori Lee, vice president, Corporate Supply Chain and Corporate Pharmacy Services. “Their efforts will help ensure our front-line clinicians can safely care for patients during this crisis.”