Ultra Clean Behind the Scenes

One department you’ll never see on a hospital tour of NorthBay Medical Center is Central Sterile. That’s because everything inside — all the tools used for surgeries and procedures — must be kept pristine and infection-free to ensure the safety of patients.

If you could enter those hallowed halls, located on the first floor of the new North Wing, what you would see is impressive, according to Darlene Capenhurst, manager of Central Services.

Central Sterile Manager Darlene Capenhurst (top of page) watches as Tech Lead Sandra Sanchez pushes carts through a new sterilizer, and (above) examines racks that will hold sterilized surgical equipment.

The department that previously functioned with no windows or outside light now has doubled in size to 3,900 square feet, and yes, it has windows.

“We’re not in a cave anymore,” said Darlene with a smile.

It also has a number of new, state-of-the-art pieces of equipment, including a case cart sterilizer, which can treat three carts at one time; low-temperature and steam sterilizers and ergonomic sinks, which can rise or, well, sink down to better suit the user.

There are “stacks” — racks that hold instruments that have been combined for specific surgical procedures, packaged and ready to go at a moment’s notice.

There is both a “clean” and “dirty” elevator, which directly link the first floor with the third floor. On the surgical floor, it opens into a narrow, clean “core” room that is connected to all eight surgery suites — providing sterile equipment needed in surgeries.

The clean equipment goes up in the clean elevator, and comes down in the dirty elevator after it has been used.

“It’s everything we needed and then some,” noted Darlene. “As we get busier and busier with new, complex surgeries, Central Sterile will have no problem keeping up.”

Super-sterile Solution

More than 600 trays from NorthBay Medical Center’s surgical suites are processed by Central Sterile staff each month. Staff use high-tech equipment to assure that surgical tools are returned to the suites in immaculate condition by:

  • Using ultrasonic equipment to shake debris from items before going into the washer- disinfectors;
  • Running washer-disinfectors through several cycles;
  • Using steam sterilizers that reach 270 degrees;
  • And using specialized low temperature sterilizers for equipment that would melt at higher temperatures, such as fiber optic light cords and scopes.

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