Newly-renovated unit opens at hospital

The $12.5-million Phase IV renovations at La Verendrye hospital here are on schedule, with the first newly-renovated unit—the sterile processing and distribution department—being showcased at an open house Friday afternoon.
Department manager Cindy Cole referred to the renovated unit, which is responsible for sterilizing all equipment used in medical procedures at the local hospital, as well as the health centres in Emo and Rainy River and at Rainycrest, as the “heart of the hospital.”
“No other part of the hospital could function without sterile processing and distribution,” she remarked.
Cole noted the sterilization of medical equipment, and what can happen if it’s not done properly, has been a hot topic in the media in recent years.
“People are truly understanding the importance of this department,” she remarked.
“The important thing is to show people what can happen with planning, time, and a [heck] of a lot of money,” Riverside CEO Wayne Woods said in a brief speech before a dozen or so hospital staff Friday afternoon.
What’s more encouraging, Woods added, is the fact the rest of the hospital is “going to look every bit as good as this department” when the Phase IV renovations are completed in the spring of 2006.
He thanked project manager Ed Cousineau, who’s also Riverside’s manager of engineering and maintenance, and the rest of the staff for their hard work on this department, as well as those still being worked on.
The renovated sterile processing and distribution department is now located on the main floor close to the emergency room (it used to be located in the basement).
Staff have been working in the new area since Oct. 26.
It consists of four rooms, with a nurses’ station in the hallway. Cole noted the new sterile processing and distribution department not only looks sharp, but “the work flow is better,” with more room for staff to move around.
Cole led small groups of Riverside staff and local media through the sterilization process.
When something that needs to be sterilized is sent to the department, it first goes to the decontamination room. There, it is hand-scrubbed by personnel in masks, gloves, and a plastic coverall before going through an automated processor, not unlike a dishwasher.
From there, it is assembled in a room slightly cooler than others in the hospital and sealed in a plastic wrap. “It’s like having a brand new instrument every time,” said technical RPN Donna Calder.
The medical apparatus then would be sent to an autoclave—a device which uses heat to ensure any bacteria possibly still left on it will be killed.
Then, the item is kept in a holding area.
One of the many safeguards used to ensure the item is truly sterilized, special tape is wrapped around a treated item. If stripes appear on the tape after a certain period of time, it’s sterile.
From there, it is ready to be re-distributed back into the health-care system.
The sterile processing and distribution department includes five sterile processing technicians and one technical RPN.
< *c>Other renovations
Meanwhile, other areas of the hospital soon will be ready for use.
For instance, the reception for the sterile processing and distribution department was held in the new emergency registration and switchboard area, which will be operational sometime in January, Cousineau said Friday during a brief tour of other areas under renovation.
He noted the next area to be moved into should be the lab, which is expected to be ready by mid-February. This area is located in the expansion to the south, just off the main entrance from Front Street.
The new dialysis unit, which also is located in the expansion at the front of the hospital, is expected to be operational by next summer.
Overall, Cousineau said the work has been on time, and having an experienced contractor like Penn-Co has helped. The company also worked on the Emo and Rainy River Health Centres in recent years.
“Hospitals are the number-one hardest thing to build,” he stressed, pointing out there’s two electrical systems to consider, different designs, and even loads for different parts of the structure, and “lots of regulations for each department.”
Riverside communications officer Teresa Hazel noted staff also are excited about the renovations and that the whole process has included their input—even down to seemingly small details, like where’s the best place to put electrical outlets.
New security
Cousineau noted one significant aspect the public will notice after the completed renovations is heightened security.
“We have a very big security system coming in,” he remarked. “The ministry wants more hospitals to be more secure.
“Emo and Rainy River open themselves up and close themselves down. We’re going to have that here,” Cousineau said, referring to the computerized access systems at the other two health centres in the district.
Cousineau noted high-profile epidemics, like SARS, has got the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care more serious than ever about controlling the spread of viruses.
This will mean most areas of the hospital will not be accessible without the use of proximity cards—devices that unlock doors for which the cardholder has clearance.
And even once they’re through those doors, many areas will require staff, whether they’re actually dealing directly with patients or not, to wear the appropriate sterile garb.