Springfield hospital uses ‘germ-zapping’ robot

$100,000 tool fights life-threatening infections.

Springfield Regional Medical Center has begun using a “germ-zapping” robot— a device that prevents potentially deadly infections.

The Xenex robot uses ultraviolet rays to sanitize surfaces, said Elaine Storrs, chief quality control officer for the hospital. It cleans surfaces in a way humans can’t, she said. Within minutes, she said, it can kill germs that cause Ebola, MRSA, norovirus and other illnesses.

“Although we do a great job,” Storrs said, “there’s the possibility — that human factor of maybe missing a handrail or doorknob or something like that.”

Springfield Regional’s robot is nicknamed Rosie. After rooms are cleaned by hand, Storrs said, Rosie is wheeled in to kill any germs that may be left behind. The flashing light is thousands of times more powerful than the sun.

Hospital-borne illnesses can be deadly, she said, because patients may have compromised immune systems. The robot also kills “superbugs” — germs that are resistant to antibiotics.

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“The idea of this is to kill (superbugs) long before it ever gets to the patient,” she said.

Springfield Regional Medical Center has low infection rates, she said.

“This just adds another layer of protection onto our already clean hospital,” she said.

The robot is expensive — $100,000, she said — but is much cheaper than the cost to the hospital and insurance companies when someone gets an infection.

Springfield is the first hospital in the region with a Xenex robot, hospital CEO Paul Hiltz said, and one of 15 hospitals in the state of Ohio to have one.

“We want to have zero infections,” Hiltz said. “We’re on our way there.”

The hospital is committed to having up-to-date technology, he said, to make patients feel safe when they receive medical care.

It is currently using Rosie to disinfect the Intensive Care Unit and Operating Rooms, Storrs said, and is studying the effectiveness of the robot on the hospital’s infection numbers.

The hospital may invest in more robots, she said, if it finds the machine is successful in bringing infection rates down.

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