Skip to content

Thursday, March 09, 2017, 7:20 AM 4:34 PM

Add to Calendar

Extending the Life of PPE Critical for All

covid testing kit in packagingEight thousand twenty-nine. That’s the number of N95 masks that have been saved since Saint Joseph Hospital and National Jewish Health began using UV light sterilization technology to process masks for reuse during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“We were fortunate that in the fall of 2019 we had learned about a new UV light technology for medical equipment sterilization,” said John Ostdiek, director of transportation at Saint Joseph Hospital. 

UV light sterilization techniques are used in research laboratories to sterilize tools and instruments in the form of a cabinet. This new technology was a more powerful version of the cabinets, in a unit a little bigger than a phone booth. By December 2019, the hospital had its first UV light sterilization machine in place, well before the pandemic took its stronghold on Denver in March 2020.  

“We determined a method for us to process the masks to ensure they didn’t have bacteria or viruses left on them,” Ostdiek said. The masks are exposed to the UV light for four minutes for the exterior patient-facing side, and two minutes for the interior. This process damages the DNA of the COVID-19 virus and kills it, making the mask safe to wear again. “It was really impressive to see how well the UV light worked,” said Ostdiek. 

While evaluating the new equipment, it was determined that the masks can be reprocessed five times and still seal to the face appropriately to keep healthcare providers and patients safe.

According to Peter Farina, director of Safety and Security and member of the PPE Committee at National Jewish Health, “The UV light sterilization is saving us 150 to 200 masks a week. We aren’t stressing about our internal supply chain.” 

In fact, the UV light sterilization machines were used so frequently at the height of the pandemic that a second machine was installed in April. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, along with flu season, both hospitals are confident that they can accommodate an increased need for PPE. Both National Jewish Health and Saint Joseph Hospital have substantial supplies of N95 masks at the time this story was written, and continue to use UV light sterilization to ensure a safe environment for our health care staff and patients.