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Keeping it clean for the region: Lac La Biche's Cadzow hospital highlights equipment repurposing unit

Equipment cleaned and transported back to hospitals in Athaasca, Boyle and Smoky Lake

LAC LA BICHE - During a day-long visit to several Lac La Biche locations on his Friday, May 3 constituency visit, Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche MLA Brian Jean made an afternoon stop at the William J. Cadzow-Lac La Biche hospital to see new upgrades to one of the health centre’s departments.  

The area MLA, who is also Alberta’s Minister of Energy and Minerals was at the hospital’s Medical Device Reprocessing (MDR) area to see upgrades in the regional hub for reprocessing surgical and minor procedural instrumentation. The department processes equipment not only for the Lac La Biche facility, but also for the healthcare centres in Athabasca, Smoky Lake, and Boyle.  

According to Cody Dingreville, the medical device reprocessing lead with AHS North Zone, renovations of the reprocessing unit were completed in August of 2023, when new equipment was installed.   

The Lac La Biche MDR, Dingreville explained, reprocesses flexible endoscopes, instruments for minor procedures, and has the capacity and capabilities to reprocess devices for potential future surgical programs.  

He said medical devices used for procedures are prepared in a manner to maintain their clean, disinfected, or sterile state and are stored in such a way to prevent contamination. 

“Once an item has been used it is returned to the MDR for full reprocessing,” he said.  

The equipment that was upgraded last year, Dingreville said, includes an automated endoscopy processor. This piece of equipment, he explained, disinfects all of the hospital’s endoscopes to render them safe for re-use. The area’s large capacity steam sterilizers - used to sterilize instruments for minor procedures - as well as the endoscopy storage system, were upgraded as well. Washer disinfectors were also updated.  

“This is the equipment that actually cleans and disinfects the instrumentation,” he said.  

According to Dingreville, AHS has also been able to upgrade all the MDR workstations and sink stations to make them ergonomic. This, he explained, makes it easier for staff to work at, as they spend their shifts at sinks and other stations.  

Dingreville said that Lac La Biche has been reprocessing equipment for other hospitals in the area for the past four years. Prior to this, he explained, Athabasca and Boyle did their own reprocessing, while Smoky Lake had their own small MDR as well.  

Friday’s visit was part of an invitational open house put on by hospital and Alberta Health Services officials to give an “introduction into the new MDR and a grand opening.” Furthermore, he added, it is to let the public know that AHS had a great opportunity to grow this medical device reprocessing area to a space that was suitable to serve for the community and for current and future surgical programs.  

Upon arriving at the event, the MLA spoke with those gathered in the hospital foyer before going upstairs for a tour of the specialized area.  

He said many communities, large and small, have been faced challenges in many areas of healthcare system in Alberta and Canada, but highlights like this one and many others in the region show that communities are stepping up to the plate to make changes.  

“Sometimes, you know, we see models that don’t do so well, and sometimes we see communities that step up and do really well for what they’re looking for,” Jean stated, adding that leaders in the community to get it to a place where it can be responsive to residents, and to have the healthcare necessary to be able to support people where and when they need it. 

Lac La Biche County Mayor Paul Reutov, also took part in the tour. He said Lac La Biche County is a distribution centre for surrounding hospitals and facilities. Having this equipment at the William J. Cadzow healthcare centre, he continued, further enhances the argument for Lac La Biche being the hub, or regional hospital.  

How is it cleaned? 

Medical device reprocessing, Dingreville says, is a complex department where a series of steps are followed to ensure safe patient outcomes. These steps include collection, sorting, disassembly, cleaning, disinfection, assembly, packaging and sterilization.  

Each step in the reprocessing process is completed following validated methods and evidence-based processes.   

These processes, he continued, are constantly being reviewed to ensure they are accurately performed and up-to-date with emerging best practices. The work itself is done by certified specialists called Medical Device Reprocessing Technicians.

Dingreville says the process is crucial in healthcare to ensure clinicians have devices that are safe to use in order to perform various procedures ranging from basic suturing to lifesaving surgeries.  

After they have been thoroughly cleaned, Dingreville said, pieces of equipment are sent back to the hospitals where they came from. The transportation is also part of the careful process.

“Items are returned to their originating facility in tamper-proof bins while transported in a humidity and temperature-controlled vehicle to ensure they remain in a safe-to-use state,” he explained.  

Chris McGarry

About the Author: Chris McGarry

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