Health Check: Hospital disinfects rooms with UV robot

Mary Jo Abilheira has worked in housekeeping at The Miriam Hospital for six years.

"I take a lot of pride in what I do and in my cleaning every day," Abilheira said.

That cleaning includes making rooms germ-free in between patients.

"You go around the room so you don't miss anything between cleaning, just about everything that's in front of you," Abilheira said.

"Our housekeepers work very vigilantly to make sure that they're cleaning well and that nothing is missed," said Julie Nakos, director of environmental services at The Miriam Hospital.

And to add an extra layer of protection, after every cleaning, Abilheira wheels in a machine that uses ultraviolet technology. She simply sets it up, presses a button then closes the door and lets it do its job.

"Hospitals are always looking to see how they can keep their patients safer. You know, germs are getting much more difficult to fight, antibiotic-resistant drugs, you know, and bacteria. So, we were looking into how we could use technology to improve our cleanliness and keep our patients safer," Nakos said.

So, after extensive research, The Miriam decided on the Xenex UV system.

"The UV light works by destroying the cells of bacteria, and essentially any germs in the room will be destroyed whenever we use this machine," Nakos said.

Since May when the hospital began using the UV technology, officials have seen some real results.

"Particularly our (C. difficile) rates. We've seen a 25 percent reduction in our rates since we've been using this machine," Nakos said.

The machine works fast, taking only about five to 10 minutes to add that layer of protection against those nasty superbugs. And that means patients who need a room can get one faster.

Nakos said while the technology is being used at other hospitals across the country, The Miriam is the first in Rhode Island to try it. Other Lifespan hospitals are considering it.