Altnagelvin hospital choose a thermal disinfection unit from Whitewater for their Endoscopy washers and talk about the problems of chemical disinfection.

Russell Doherty, Decontamination Engineer at Altnagelvin Hospital, Co Derry spoke to Hilary Knight about the problems of using chemicals in water purification for Endoscopy and his move to change over to the alternatives offered by thermal disinfection.

Using chemical dosing to control the quality of pure and ultrapure water supplies in hospitals has long been the key method of controlling disinfection and decontamination of medical instruments. But more recent concerns over the safe storage, handling of chemicals and levels remaining in waste water have prompted the adoption of alternative technologies using thermal, or hot disinfection..

“We had become increasingly concerned over the high use of a variety of chemicals in our processes to control water quality for use in our endoscopy decontamination units and which still showed inconsistency in the results from this chemical disinfection.”

“The ever stronger concentrates of chemicals that we had to use to ensure reliability was taking us further out of our comfort zone and was introducing increasingly high risks for staff and for our department here at Altnagelvin,” said Russell.

“Chemicals don’t penetrate everywhere and biofilm and bacteria can remain in the tiniest of crevices, or at a valve or joint, whereas thermal disinfection treats everything consistently and reliably.”

Russell also spoke about other issues related to the use of chemicals in decontamination areas in hospitals.

“There are also the essential Health and Safety issues of the chemicals which can be irritants and can lead to eye, skin, and respiratory issues such as asthma. Staff training in new chemicals and new regulations became increasingly demanding.”

“We had to store the chemicals in a secure area, addressing issues of flammability and toxicity and also constantly monitor stock levels of chemicals and re-order since some of the chemicals we used had a short shelf life.”

“In particular for purified water for our automated endoscopy reprocessors, (AER’s) we were looking for an alternative to chemical dosing and knew that thermal disinfection worked extremely well in our dialysis systems and in Sterile Services. We have already been using this method of disinfecting feed water in these areas very effectively for some time.”

“We had the go ahead to install a new water purification system for our Endoscopy unit this year and chose to use an automated RO thermal disinfection system this year from Whitewater, which disinfects the entire loop main with hot water to 85ºC.”

“Because the new system is automatic, the thermal disinfection cycles are logged and recorded. Monitoring and validation is much more reliable than manual logging which is the only method with chemical dosing.”

“Now we no longer rely upon the use of chemicals for this system, although unfortunately we still have to use chemicals in the endoscope washers themselves as the scopes themselves are delicate instruments and very heat sensitive.”

“When we are able to replace the endoscope washers, we will certainly be looking for a system that is chemical free. With our experience of the reliability and success of our other thermal disinfection systems, this would be our preferred method of decontamination.”

Speaking about the new move to thermal disinfection systems for water purification units in medical environments, Tim Quinn director at Whitewater said, “Thermal disinfection is becoming the industry standard for these systems as research is showing the increased consistency and reliability in achieving pure and ultrapure water standards. All our water purification units use this technology.”

“Moving away from chemical dosing is also helping decontamination units such as at Altnagelvin to solve a lot of other issues of safety, storage and staff health issues.”