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UV Robots Zap Germs in UPMC Hospitals

Charlee Song
90.5 WESA News

Hand washing, floor scrubbing, sterilizing instruments--all standard techniques to thwart hospital-acquired infections.  Now UPMC hospitals are evaluating new technology to help prevent infections.  At Passavant Hospital, staff is using a robot to help sanitize a room with ultraviolet-C rays.  Fittingly, the robot’s name is “Violet”.

Dr. Joseph Romano, chairman of the Passavant Hospital Infection Prevention and Control Committee, said "Violet" is turned on after a room has been disinfected in the usual way. 

“It takes about 10 or 15 minutes for this machine to work and through ultraviolet pulsations, it is able to interact with the DNA of any viruses and bacteria and make it so they’re not able to reproduce so that we can decrease, not eliminate but decrease, the risk of infection from the inanimate environment to our patients.”

The robot emits UV  light that damages bacteria, including Clostridium difficile (C. diff), methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE),  commonly referred to as “superbugs” because they are highly resistant to traditional antibiotics.

Chief Quality Officer Tami Minnier says hospital-associated infections are an issue nationwide and preventing them at UPMC hospitals is a top priority. "These robots, coupled with our many other infection prevention measures, are an important tool in ensuring patient safety."

Most important still, however, according to Dr. Romano, is hand washing—for patients, healthcare workers and hospital visitors. 

"If we find deficiencies, if we find something less than 90-95 percent compliance [with their standards], we then target those units and do educational seminars on how to improve our hand washing techniques.

The health system began a UV robot pilot project at UPMC Presbyterian, Montefiore, and Shadyside in February and is now considering expanding the program to its other hospitals. 

Charlee Song has been covering news for 90.5 FM since 2000—an opportunity she considers a great privilege. She finds almost every assignment interesting and really enjoys working with both the veterans and interns at WESA.