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Myrtue is using Ultraviolet Light Protocol to Decontaminate and Extend N95 Masks

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  • Written By: Myrtue Medical Center
Myrtue is using Ultraviolet Light Protocol to Decontaminate and Extend N95 Masks

Myrtue is using Ultraviolet Light Protocol to Decontaminate and Extend N95 Masks

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is used every day by healthcare personnel (HCP) to protect themselves, patients, and others when providing care. PPE helps protect HCP from potentially infectious patients and materials, toxic medications, and other potentially dangerous substances used in healthcare delivery.

PPE shortages are currently posing a tremendous challenge to the U.S. healthcare system because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Healthcare facilities are having difficulty accessing the needed PPE and are having to identify alternate ways to provide patient care.

The N95 respirator mask is the most often used PPE to control exposures to infections transmitted via airborne transmission. Due to the nationwide shortage of the N95 masks, Myrtue researched alternative methods and learned that UNMC and Nebraska Medicine teamed up to develop an innovative solution of decontaminating the N95 masks, making them reusable by using an ultraviolet (UV) light tower. They are sharing the processes and resources they have adopted so other healthcare facilities can conserve their N95 masks and fight this battle against COVID-19.

“Just as our healthcare partners at UNMC and Nebraska Medicine have shared their knowledge and resources, we’ve been able to pay forward the benefits of the UV light to other Shelby County first responders and local nursing home staff, helping them conserve their supply,” said Barry Jacobsen, CEO of Myrtue Medical Center.

Why are N95 masks so important?

A normal surgical face mask is a loose fitting barrier that covers your nose and mouth. It protects against the immediate environment, but doesn’t protect health care workers from the new coronavirus.

N95 masks are custom fit to each health care worker. They have filters inside that capture at least 95% of virus particles, protecting those who are fighting on the front lines of this pandemic from an infection. “While caring for COVID-19 patients, it is important to wear the N95 mask,” said Kara Koesters, Infection Control RN. “In normal times, the N95 masks are used once and disregarded. With the UV light, the masks can be re-worn safely multiple times.”

How N95 masks are disinfected

In the new decontamination room, masks hang across long, thin wires, resembling a clothesline. The ultraviolet light disrupts the coronavirus’s genetic material, DNA, deactivating it. Once it has finished with the decontamination process, the masks are removed and returned to their original owners for reuse.

What are other uses for the UV light?

The large UV tower, which gives off a blue glow when turned on, can be used to decontaminate rooms after patients leave.

In addition to the hospital staff using the UV light, Myrtue is extending the decontamination process to local nursing homes and Medivac. This will allow the conservation of N95 masks for many frontline workers in Shelby County.

Funding sources

Myrtue received funding from the Shelby County Health Foundation in order to purchase the UV light. This grant donation allows Myrtue to ensure our staff and other Shelby County first responders the adequate N95 masks protection.