Grundy County Memorial Hospital debuted a relatively new weapon against infections into the operating room in 2016, and it has helped protect surgery patients from unwanted germs.
The Steris pathogen disinfection system relies on ultraviolet light to kill germs.
The machine works something like a tanning bed, according to Jessica Eilers, a registered nurse and surgery and patient experience manager at the hospital.
Vertical tubes flood a space with ultraviolet light, the operating room, for instance. According to the machine's manufacturer, the UV rays damage the nucleic acids in microorganisms RNA and DNA, which in turn inhibits their ability to multiply.
The light is effective on bacteria, viruses, fungi and spores — a wide range of pathogens.
Anywhere the light touches becomes virtually germ-free, says Eilers, who adds that the UV light disinfection system is easy to use. It an be wheeled into position and turned on remotely using a tablet.
A typical cycle takes four minutes. Some rooms may require repositioning and more than one cycle. The operating room, for example, gets bathed in light twice, an eight-minute process, according to Eilers.
The unit cost $50,000 and is one of just a few at work in Iowa. Eilers is a member of the nursing leadership team at Grundy County Memorial Hospital. "The cost of this is minute compared to one person getting a serious infection," Eilers added.
The team researched the technology and recommended the Steris model, which Eilers discovered also is used at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City.
"People trust us when they come here, for us to take care of them," Eilers said.
She also predicts ultraviolet light disinfection will eventually become the standard of care.
The original hospital was built in 1952 and is at 201 E. J Ave. in Grundy Center. Grundy County Memorial Hospital is part of the Unity Point Health system and is affiliated with Unity Point-Allen Hospital in Waterloo, an association that began in 2000-01. The hospital expanded in 2010 and features 25 beds.