Robot fights germs at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center

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CHULA VISTA, Calif. - Some hospitals across the country, including one in San Diego County, are turning to robotic technology to fight the spread of germs and infectious diseases.

Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center is the only hospital in the area participating in a pilot program, using Xenex Disinfection robots to kill germs.

"Technology is growing and everything is changing. We want to make sure we're staying ahead of the game," Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center Environmental Services General Manager Vennie Henderson said.

He was referring to their new robot.

The robot, created by Xenex uses ultraviolet light to kill everything in its path.

Xenex was founded by Epidemiologists Dr. Mark Stibich and Dr. Julie Stachowiak in August 2008, with the core mission to eliminate the pathogens that cause the infections that impact the health and lives of millions of patients and their families, and become the new standard method for disinfection in healthcare facilities worldwide.

So how does it work?

"The head of the machine comes up and it flickers. And with that flickering UV light, everything the light touches breaks up the organisms to where it can't regenerate and dies off," Henderson said.

Xenex representatives further explained, "The Xenex system works by pulsing xenon, an inert gas, twice a second at high intensity in a xenon ultraviolet flashlamp. This produces ultraviolet C (UVC), which penetrates the cell walls of microorganisms including bacteria, viruses, mold, fungus and spores. Their DNA is instantly fused so that they are unable to reproduce or mutate, effectively killing them on surfaces and in the air without contact or chemicals," in a release to FOX 5 San Diego.

This new wave of technology gives peace of mind to healthcare workers and patients, often exposed to deadly germs and viruses.

With each robot costing between $90,000 and $130,000, healthcare workers said they're worth every penny.

"We know that when we're done with this process and we turn a room over for the next patient, that patient is going to go into an environment that's clean and safe adn they have no opportunities to collect another acquired infection at our facility."

Though the robots use technology to kill germs, they do have an element that humanizes them.

Each robot has a name. The one at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center is named Xena.

"They want this machine to feel its part of the team; it enhances what we do, just as it were another staff member," Henderson said.

The Xenex system can disinfect a typical patient/procedure room in 5-10 minutes.

That is considerably less expensive, faster, safer and “greener” than other automated cleaning and infection control methods, including toxic mercury UV and hydrogen peroxide-based systems, which can take multiple hours to achieve the same level of disinfection.