NMMC opens sterile processing plant

By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – North Mississippi Medical Center has a new weapon in the battle to keep germs out of operating rooms.
In March, the 33,000-square-foot central sterile processing plant just north of the main hospital campus began its work using robots, computerized systems and a one-way work flow to keep germs separated from sterile materials destined for operating rooms.
It replaces a 4,300-square-foot area at the main Tupelo hospital.
North Mississippi Health Services has invested more than four years of planning and nearly $15 million to create the central sterile processing and case cart assembly plant, Mike Switzer, system vice president for supply chain. The hospital staff investigated the best practices in the United States, Canada and Europe in both health care and manufacturing.
“We actually took more from manufacturing than we did from health care,” Switzer said.
Right now, the facility serves the main hospital and women’s hospital in Tupelo, NMMC-Iuka and several medical clinics. Over the next year, the plant will take over sterilization for all six of the system’s hospitals and more than 30 affiliated medical clinics.
“It will allow us to be greener,” Switzer said. “We’ll be able to do away with a lot of disposable blue wraps.”
The new facility is separated into three key areas: decontamination, prep and packaging and sterilization. Items flow one way to avoid cross contamination. Employees, who wear uniforms that don’t leave the building, work only in one area during their shift.
The system is more than washers and sterilizers. Massive heating and cooling systems are designed to keep the temperature at 72 degrees to inhibit the growth of germs. Separate air systems keep the air from mixing. Specially designed carts seal tight to guard the sterile items and keep used items from spreading contamination.
By October, a carousel system is slated to be installed, which will let techs pull together everything needed for each surgical case, saving OR staff time and effort, said T.J. Adams, the plant director.