RARITAN TWP. — Hospital workers are constantly cleaning rooms to avoid Hospital Acquired Infections at Hunterdon Medical Center, but now a robot will be working to do the dirty work.
In July, the hospital purchased a $100,000 Xenex robot to zap the hard-to-kill germs in places that are difficult to reach. It uses pulsed ultraviolet rays to quickly destroy viruses and bacteria in each room.
The robot, known to employees as M.A.R.I.T.A., is named after a long-time employee who just retired and is also an acronym for Mobile Antimicrobial Robotic Infection Treatment Aid.
After the room is cleaned, workers push M.A.R.I.T.A – which is on wheels – in to begin two five-minute cycles to completely disinfect a room, explained Director of Infection Prevention Lisa Rasimowicz. Those 10 minutes are crucial to avoiding HAI.
The Center for Disease Control estimates one in 25 hospital patients contract HAI on any given day. In 2011, the CDC reported 721,800 HAIs in United States hospitals.
The UV light pulses more than 60 times per second, reflecting off a dome shaped mirror to hit every surface in the room.
Since it was introduced in July, it has been used in 100-percent of ICU discharges and in operating rooms. In July and September, these area have had zero Hospital Acquired Infections of C. difficile, Rasimowicz said.
“We continue to see the success,” she said. “It gets room as close to sterile as we can get it.”
It kills even the most dangerous pathogens, including C. diff, norovirus, Ebola, influenza and strong bacteria resistant to cleaning products.
UV light has been used for many years for disinfection, but Michael Walker, Business Development Manager at Xenex, said this robot uses xenon instead of mercury bulbs. The light fuses DNA of the cells and doesn’t allow them to reproduce or mutate, effectively killing them.
Hunterdon Medical Center purchased another robot that will be used in another high-risk area, and it will train more faculty, adding to the 15 to 20 employees already trained.
“Ultimately we want to use this technology in every patient room in the facility,” Rasimowicz said.
She said she would also like to see the robot used in communities during outbreaks and in schools, specifically during sports seasons.
If the technology is used during an outbreak, it can eliminate sickness and result in healthier communities, she said.
“There’s no end to what partnership we can lead to,” she said.
The same germ-zapping robot is being currently used in dozens of other hospitals in New Jersey, including St. Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick. It’s also used in Department of Defense facilities and in hospitals all over Europe and Africa.