While the recent pandemic has done a lot to push sterilization to the forefront, this isn’t the first and only major sanitary issue that hospitals across North America have had to face in recent years. Before this, the US and Canadian healthcare systems were dealing with a bacteria called C difficile that was wreaking havoc, not only in hospitals, but in nursing homes across both countries.
At its peak in around 2011, the disease caused more than 29,000 deaths per year and it is estimated that over 4.8 billion dollars are spent to defend against it yearly. Sterilization is a never-ending battle in healthcare, and we can expect it to get even more attention in the years to come. But, why is it so important for hospitals to sterilize equipment?
Reduce the Risk of Bacterial Infections
The first reason why hospitals need to sterilize equipment is to prevent bacterial infection rates, especially when it comes to surgery. Infectioncontrolresults.com has an informative article in which they explain the importance of the sterile processing department in the surgery process. It also explains how having high surgical site infection rates can make it more difficult to attract skilled surgeons.
Put simply, your sterile processing department and your surgeons must work together to prevent infections to both patients and employees. Not only will it protect them, but it will also protect the reputation of your hospital. As well as this, it will reduce the chances that you end up facing legal action for negligence.
Stopping the Spread of Surface Borne Diseases
We also know that various viruses can live on surfaces, and can be transmitted through instruments. COVID is one of them, but HIV/AIDS and hepatitis are two other very serious and chronic diseases that can be transmitted through instruments that weren’t properly sterilized. Note that this would put both patients and staff at risk of contracting a life threatening or altering condition.
Reducing the Risk of Deaths
While we know that there are ways to live with diseases like HIV/AIDS, severe bacterial infections can kill some patients in a matter of days. So, there’s a very real risk of someone dying because instruments were mishandled.
What are the Best Solutions to Sterilize Equipment?
While having a well-formed sterile processing department is the first step, you also have to invest in continued education to make sure that they're aware of all the latest techniques and procedures. Next, you have to make sure that you have the right tools on hand and in enough quantity to handle your needs.
The most important piece of equipment is the autoclave. It’s an instrument that uses highly pressurized steam to sterilize instruments. Steam sterilization is one of the most modern sterilization methods available and can destroy virtually any microorganism – even those that are said to be heat-resistant.
Another thing that has to be taken into consideration is medical waste. This can be a cause for infection as well, and medical waste shredders are the way to go. You even have some that combine both a shredder and steam sterilization to further reduce contamination risks.
These are some of the main reasons why sterilization plays such an important role in healthcare. The pandemic is sure to raise more awareness for it, and it should make up an increasingly larger portion of hospital budgets.