As effective as UV technology is at killing germs, industry experts are quick to point out that it is not a replacement for manual cleaning and disinfecting.

“UV-C is a supplemental technology and not a replacement for standard manual disinfection,” says Velez. “Manual cleaning and disinfecting is important to remove soils and kill pathogens on surfaces. The UV device offers an extra layer of protection by inactivating microorganisms that you may have missed during manual cleaning.”

John Scherberger, a former environmental services (EVS) director and current owner of Healthcare Risk Mitigation, Spartanburg, South Carolina, describes UV technology as the capstone of terminal cleaning.

“This is the icing on the cake,” he says. “Whether it’s mercury or xenon, neither one removes dirt, oil, skin cells, or dust where bacteria thrives. EVS staff does the best job possible, and then UV is used to destroy a large amount of bacteria that remains. Administrators need to look at this technology as augmenting EVS staff, not replacing them.”

Such is the case at University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center where UV technology has contributed to a 27 percent reduction in multi-drug resistant organisms since its implementation six years ago.

“We made this technology part of our routine cleaning strategy,” says Roy Chemaly, director of infection control, who first introduced UV technology to MD Anderson. “I want to make sure we provide a safe environment for our patients when they’re admitted. We do so by providing great housekeeping and UV light to decontaminate high-risk areas and reduce the amount of bacteria to almost zero.”

Initially, MD Anderson purchased two Xenex machines for use in isolation rooms after discharge. Today, the hospital has seven machines and has expanded usage to all operating rooms and intensive care units, with plans to also include IV rooms in pharmacies.

Although UV equipment requires approximately 10 to 20 minutes to set up and complete its cycles, the end result is a long-term savings of time, money, and — most importantly — lives.

“For the frontline worker, it’s an impact on their time, but imagine how much more work it would be if someone caught C.diff,” says English. “Ultimately, it’s a time saver for the whole hospital.”

Scherberger finds that hospitals implementing UV disinfection technology are receptive to allowing staff extra time to process a room.

“Using UV disinfection has caused the realization that workers can’t sufficiently process a room to the hygienically clean and safe state currently expected in 12 or 13 minutes,” he says. “When you take a UV machine into a room, you’ve increased the amount of time needed to turn over that room. But that’s just another step in providing a safer patient care environment.”

At MD Anderson, UV technology is used to disinfect about 30 operating rooms, which requires extra staffing on the night shift.

“It takes 30 minutes per room to do UV cleaning and curtain changes, so I  had to devote two of my employees strictly to those tasks,” says Babette Beene, environmental services manager at MD Anderson.

But this is the exception, not the rule: On shifts that require less use of UV technology, one employee is responsible for both the terminal cleaning and UV disinfection. In total, approximately 20 frontline staff are trained to operate the machines, in addition to all supervisors and managers, says Beene.

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