The Eye and Ear’s Sterile Processing Services (SPS) – The “quiet achievers” of infection control
Every day, medical procedures are undertaken in healthcare settings globally, which require a wide range of supplies, instruments and equipment. Patient safety hinges on these instruments being properly cleaned, sanitised and sterilised.
The Sterile Processing Service (SPS) at the Eye and Ear is a specialised area responsible for receiving, storing, processing, distributing, and controlling the professional supplies and equipment (both sterile and non-sterile) for the care and safety of our patients. The importance of the function of this team cannot be over stated. The team provides service to all of the operating theatres and outpatient clinics throughout the hospital. Though the services they provide might not be visible to the average patient, nonetheless their role is absolutely critical in supporting patient safety.
Randy Rufo, Nurse Unit Manager of SPS – Surgical Services explained the importance for the SPS team to work closely with other areas of the hospital
“The goal is always to meet the demands required for the best patient care without compromising on standards of practice.”
The upgrade of SPS’s facilities due to the progress of the Eye and Ear’s redevelopment has resulted in a new very large, modern department with state-of-the-art facilities and a workflow which is unidirectional which ensures infection prevention standards are met. The standard – AS/NZS 4187:2014 “Reprocessing of reusable medical devices in health service organisations” and sets out strict requirements for the reprocessing of reusable medical devices in healthcare settings.
The initial cleaning of instruments begins at the end of the procedure in which the reusable medical equipment is used. After this cleaning, all items require thorough cleaning and disinfection in the equipment reprocessing area before sterilising.
As stated in the standard, it is vital that staff are educated and competent in relation to effective infection prevention and control. This includes ongoing staff education and induction relating to infection prevention and control, and competency.
SPS run two automated washer disinfection machines connected to an automated chemical dosing system supplying the washers with pre-set dose of chemicals to be used for surgical instruments. The department uses an electronic tracking system to allow for easy tracking of instrument usage, monitoring of supplies, as well as reduction of paper waste.
It is estimated in a three-month period that there are around 1,536 steriliser cycles run resulting in more than 120,000 sanitised instruments.
Of course, SPS is just one cog in the Eye and Ear’s extended model of care. There must be ongoing consultation to ensure that the instruments that are used are compatible with the cleaning, disinfection and sterilisation equipment available. To ensure devices can be processed in accordance with the recommended cleaning and sterilisation procedure (known as instructions for use or IFU) there are ongoing reviews via the hospital’s Product Evaluation committee and in accordance with The Australian Standard AS/NZS 4187.
When at full strength, the SPS team consists of 27 hard-working health professionals. When asked what motivates the team most Randy simply stated:
Knowing we can help improve the lives of our patients.