Robotic cleaners deployed in hospitals to combat deadly infections

Wards closed in three hospitals to allow ‘Daleks’ spray hydrogen peroxide vapour

Wards in three hospitals in north Wales have been closed to let the cleaning machines use a hydrogen peroxide spray to kill infections. Photograph: Jeff Pachoud/AFP/Getty Images)

Wards in three hospitals in north Wales have been closed to let the cleaning machines use a hydrogen peroxide spray to kill infections. Photograph: Jeff Pachoud/AFP/Getty Images)

Wed, Jul 30, 2014, 01:00

Robotic cleaners, which have already been nicknamed as “the Daleks”, have been brought into Welsh hospitals in a major “deep cleaning” operation to end deadly hospital infections.

Wards in three hospitals in north Wales – Wrexham, Bodelwyddan and Bangor – have been closed to let the cleaning machines use a hydrogen peroxide spray to kill infections. The wards are first cleaned in the normal way and then emptied and sealed while the Dalek cleaners are brought in to spray the room with a hydrogen peroxide vapour.

The machines – which bear an uncanny resemblance to the robots in the Dr Who TV series – were brought in after the local health authority was severely criticised over repeated outbreaks of Clostridium difficile.

The Betsi Cadwaladr health board was forced into making a public apology last year for failing to prevent outbreaks of C.diff at the Glan Clwyd Hospital in Bodelwyddan.

C.diff infections can occur when bacteria in the gut is weakened or killed by antibiotics. The dangerous bug can then cause diarrhoea and severe inflammation of the bowel – an outcome which can be life-threatening for some patients.

The alarm was raised in north Wales two years ago when the number of new C.diff cases rose from three a week to eight. Last year, C.diff was blamed for seven deaths. A report carried out since says that north Wales hospitals have been making progress in lowering infection rates, but the numbers are “still too high”.

Machines

Hydrogen peroxide vaporiser cleaning machines were first used in Singapore in 2002 during the Sars virus crisis and later used by the US government to deal with anthrax terrorist attacks. A study carried out by the John Hopkins Hospital in the US found that the number of patient infections fell by two-thirds after the cleaning machines were brought in.

So far, the Welsh health authority has found that the cleaning machines, along with better hygiene rules, has cut C.diff infection rates by half.