Unsung Heroes of Surgery


March 4, 2016

(Bangor, Maine) – Everyone expects surgical instruments to be clean, but to make sure they are the necessary level of clean for patient care requires much more than just soap and water. In June, a key behind-the-scenes function in the hospital that exists for the purpose of keeping patients safe will have a new space created for the sterilization of surgical instruments and equipment.
Part of EMMC’s Modernization Project, the new, 18,500 square-feet Sterile Processing and Distribution Department is made up of a sophisticated and perfectly laid out series of rooms and equipment with a very specific path each dirty tool must follow before being considered ready for use. With impressive new equipment, more room, and a layout that was designed with efficiency and safety in mind, the space is an example of how improvements to relatively unknown areas of the hospital are critical to providing high quality care.
“Sterile Processing is an unsung hero of surgery,” states Siobhan Johnson, manager of EMMC’s Sterile Processing and Distribution Department. “We have more than 55 employees, and each has a very specific role to play in making sure surgical instruments are sterile. Without sterile instruments, there would be no way to control cross contamination and infection.”
Here’s how it will work: dirty equipment will be brought into a preliminary cleaning room through a dedicated elevator where items are disassembled and hand-washed. The instruments will then be put through one of four medical washers. A second team will pull the clean tools into a different room where everything will be prepped and packed for the next procedure. The completed packs then will go through one of four autoclave (sterilization) bays where the tools and packaging will be sterilized. The sterilized instruments will then be retrieved by a third team, in another sterile room, where the packs will be placed on special single-stack shelving units. The instruments will then be ready for use.
The Sterile Processing and Distribution Department produces more than 240,000 packages of sterilized equipment each year, and will soon have a space that is perfectly tailored to efficient and effective sterilization.
“While the current department provides safely sterilized instruments, the new space and equipment will provide us with everything we need to be as safe and productive as possible,” says Justin Cyr, inventory coordinator. “With our hardwired processes and the latest technology, we strive for zero preventable infections and do some of the most important work to keep patients safe, even though we aren’t typically seen by the public.”
For more information or to schedule a tour of the new Sterile Processing and Distribution Department before it opens, please contact us at emmcmediarequest@emhs.org or 973-9530. For more information about the Modernization Project, visit modernization.emmc.org.