Like most health care systems across the nation, Shenandoah Medical Center has been working hard to secure enough N95 masks to help protect its health care providers from the coronavirus. Therefore, this week the hospital started a new effort to clean workers’ masks using ultraviolet light.
The process, modified from a University of Nebraska Medical Center protocol implemented in late March and shared online for other health care facilities to use or modify, uses ultraviolet (UV) light to disinfect dozens of used masks at a time.
Once the masks are decontaminated, SMC CEO, Matt Sells said, “The masks can be re-used multiple times. The research supports this type of cleaning, so we decided to work to implement this program here at our facility. The importance of having the right equipment to protect our front-line personnel is a major emphasis during this pandemic, and using innovative tools to safely reuse our PPE is essential during a nationwide shortage.”
Sells states SMC hospital employees put their names on each mask. Then, SMC hangs the masks on lines inside a room with the UV machines. The decontamination process takes roughly 10-15 minutes. Sells finished by saying, “Our entire team’s ability to pull this together so quickly was very impressive but truly not a surprise as the team has worked tirelessly to prepare for the worst during this difficult time.”
Although there was minimal research on the use of UV light to sterilize masks prior to the COVID-19 crisis, many hospitals already use UV lighting to decontaminate rooms after moving patients with some dangerous infections.