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Resourcefulness and Teamwork Abound During COVID-19 Pandemic

As the need for facemasks to keep patients and team members safe continues during COVID-19, Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center has implemented a new cleaning procedure that uses ultraviolet light to sterilize personal protective equipment (PPE) so it can be safely used again.

“Face masks are essential to keeping our patients and staff members safe during this time.” said Dr. Jonas Fontenot, chief operating officer and chief of physics. “Research has shown that UV light can effectively kill bacteria, including COVID-19, and other harmful germs, allowing us to reuse and extend our PPE supply.”

The decontamination process consists of many steps, but the UV machine is where the sterilization takes place. The unit is set for 15-minute cycles allowing the UV light to penetrate and disinfect the masks. They are then placed in a holding area and re-issued to the original owner after a seven-day waiting period, which also helps to ensure the masks are safe for re-use. New face masks are provided after three full sterilization cycles.

As an infection control nurse, Jessica Ashford knows the importance of maintaining PPE sterilization. “During this shortage, it is imperative that we be creative, but effective in our decontamination techniques,” she said. “Knowing that the organization I work for is utilizing best practices to ensure my safety while conserving valuable resources gives me great peace of mind.”

The Cancer Center continues to make adjustments to respond to the challenges of COVID-19, and our team members have been instrumental in their commitment to help and volunteer in areas outside of their departments.

“Being hands-on and in the clinics is brand new to me coming from my office role, but I love this new opportunity and contribute in a different way,” said Katie Ketelsen, HR recruiter, who volunteered to operate of the UV unit. “All of our clinicians have been so helpful and it’s inspiring to see how positive and patient-focused everyone remains,” said Katie.

Are you looking for ways to support cancer patients during this time? As we begin to reopen clinics and screenings, we need your help in ensuring all of patients and team members remain safe. To help fill in the PPE gap even further, we are in need of cloth masks. Check out our COVID-19 page for information on sewing patterns and how to donate.