'The Germinator': Tualatin hospital leaps into cleaning's future

'The Germinator': Tualatin hospital leaps into cleaning's future

TUALATIN, Ore. -- It looks like something out of a sci-fi movie.

It's a device that can kill every single germ in a hospital room and protect patients from infection. The Germinator, as it's known, is making the lives of hospital patients safer and Legacy Meridian Park in Tualatin is the first hospital on the West Coast to have the machine.

But how does it work? Staff at the Tualatin hospital got an up-close look as the portable machine recently rolled from department to department. Officials at the hospital used it on a trial basis for two weeks. Afterward, they took cultures of the rooms to see if any germs, bacteria and spores like MRSA still existed.

"Our cultures were just ... the results were incredible," said Pete Mersereau, the director of surgical and interventional services at Legacy Meridian. "The light pointing in this direction will point the rays this way, UV light will hit the wall, bounce into this shadow zone, and then bounce back."

Hospital rooms today are getting more and more complex. There's more equipment and with that comes more surface area.

One hospital housekeeper typically cleans an intensive care unit room in 45-60 minutes, depending on the size of the room. They have to clean all of the crevices, like the keys on a keyboard, in the entire room. They also have to clean under the bed and the dusting high above. Mopping the floor is also a must.

The Germinator, which is named Iris, can clean a room in half that time and there's no human error.

However, hospital officials said they're still using Iris as a safety net. Cleaners will still do their job as usual and then Iris will come in to make sure it's 100 percent clean.

So why did hospital officials spend $125,000 on the new machine? The reason is because it's an even higher cost -- both financially and emotionally -- when a patient gets an infection in the hospital.

"So the patient may have to have a longer length of stay, which has expense to it," Mersereau said.

Iris also has safety features and will shut off if the door to a room is opened. It also has a motion detector that shuts itself off if it senses someone's in the room.

"You wouldn't want to walk into a room when this is happening," Mersereau said. "It would cause a sun burn and possibly some visual impairment."

This kind of ultraviolet germ-killing technology is already used in other places, such as water treatment facilities.

The machine is not on the retail market for consumers.