The Healthcare Coalition for Emergency Preparedness reports that a California manufacturer of medical waste sterilization equipment, San-I-Pak, has been collaborating with local hospitals who have now tested and started sterilizing certain disposable Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) with these large autoclaves already on-site.
This comes at a time when many health care workers fear there is not enough PPE available so that they can treat coronavirus patients and stay safe. Sterilizing of PPE’s can be done at hospitals around the country at the just under 20% of US hospitals and Veterans Medical Centers that have on-site waste sterilization systems.
“California hospitals are trying to get ahead of the curve on PPE shortages,” said Darrell Henry, Executive Director for the Healthcare Coalition for Emergency Preparedness. “Sterilizing PPEs on-site at hospitals could help aid our country through this crisis.”
The results of the testing indicate that these large scale autoclaves are effective at sterilizing specific types of surgical masks, isolation gowns, and eye protection to enable reuse. PPEs made with cloth/linen, polycarbonate, and polypropylene were determined to be suitable for steam sterilization in the San-I-Pak equipment. These large autoclave systems can serve a dual purpose to process PPEs in addition to regulated medical waste (RMW) without any changes to the systems.
For cities that do not have this equipment at any of its area hospitals or are in immediate need of additional capacity, there is a solution readily available—a mobile sterilizer unit (MSU) that is on a trailer that can be trucked to any location with a flat space the size of a mobile shipping container, a dedicated power supply, and a drain for the purposes mentioned above. The MSU could also be used to temporarily process RMW during a patient surge, which would dramatically increase output of medical waste.
“To help lower the overall demand for PPEs, all VA facilities across the country with RMW waste equipment could sterilize their PPEs,” said Henry. “They could also share their capacity for PPE reuse with area hospitals without such equipment under the VA’s fourth mission.”