Patricia Esparza, a sterile processing technician, and co-workers processed 47,000 surgical trays in 2011.

UTMB’s unsinkable Sterile Processing Department has reached the last milepost on a remarkable journey since Hurricane Ike in 2008.

The department recenlty moved to a new temporary quarters adjacent to the Primary Care Pavilion on Harborside Drive in Galveston. The next and final stop will be the new Clinical Services Wing, where construction starts later this year and will be complete by 2015.
“In these past couple of years, we have had to do things that no one else was doing anywhere in the country, and persevered under unusual conditions,” said Dolly McCarley, the department’s program manager. “I have worked with so many dedicated people who pulled us through all this.”
Her department is indispensable to clinical operations because it sterilizes medical devices and instruments. Disruptions in sterilization work can disrupt schedules in operating rooms and most clinics.
Hurricane floodwaters ruined the department’s first-floor headquarters and equipment at John Sealy Hospital. “There was complete devastation,” McCarley said. For months, about half of all UTMB sterilizing work was outsourced to company in Sugarland.
The department meanwhile worked to recover and took up residence in the Rebecca Sealy Hospital building. Soon the department was back to its round-the-clock operation. It sterilized 47,000 surgical trays alone in 2011.
Although temporary, the new headquarters is specially designed and outfitted. “It is truly amazing seeing the technology that has been installed in this facility. It will easily carry UTMB’s sterilization needs until transition into the new Clinical Services Wing,” said Bud Cherry, director of patient care and assistant chief nursing officer for Perioperative Nursing.
The building uses negative air-pressure to control contaminants, and has a door system to isolate clean areas. The department also has added an ultrasonic cleaning appliance to clean, sterilize and lubricate crucial components in the robotic da Vinci Surgical System.
“For quality control, it is so wonderful” McCarley said. “It allows no human error and provides consistency in reprocessing”
Technicians in the department also operate an array of washing devices that sterilize conventional instruments and related devices such as cameras and scopes. Trays of instruments and case carts for surgery are tracked by computer and technicians monitor each job for quality. Sterilized equipment is sealed in air-tight carts for shuttle rides to John Sealy Hospital and other points.