VERDE VALLEY CORONAVIRUS HEROES: Northern Arizona Healthcare reprocesses N95 masks, donates automated external defibrillators to first responders
COTTONWOOD — Although personal protective equipment existed before the COVID-19 pandemic, the coronavirus – and how people have dealt with it – have brought the PPE into the lexicon of our new vocabulary.
Glen Green, lead biomedical technician of Verde Valley Medical Center’s biomedical engineering department, is part of a team that reprocesses N95 masks for Northern Arizona Healthcare to use as it protects and serves its patients.
Anywhere from 300 to 400 N95 masks are reprocessed at one time, according to Lori Smithson, the center’s clinical care operations and systems director.
The masks, she explained, are decontaminated using a vaporized hydrogen peroxide machine called Bioquell.
N95 masks that have been reprocessed should be as good as they were when the first came out of their original packaging. Smithson said that once the masks are reprocessed, they should be “visibly clean, not soiled,” they shouldn’t have any worn fabric, and their straps must still be intact. Any masks that don’t measure up are discarded.
How often a mask can be given new life with reprocessing “depends on how they use the mask,” said Judah Landavaso, surgical scrub tech at Verde Valley Medical Center.
“It can be processed multiple times,” Landavaso said. “I honestly can say I can’t tell the difference, and I’ve worn them.”
According to Green, Verde Valley Medical Center “knows they have quality masks and there’s a shortage.”
Green was nominated as a Living Our Values honoree for his help in repurposing automated external defibrillators – AEDs – for the community’s first responders to use. For Green, repurposing the equipment was “a unique situation.”
“The AEDs were in excellent condition with very little use, and by donating these to Cottonwood’s first responders it allowed a service to the community that the first responders were not able to provide,” Green said. “It was a win-win scenario. Most of the time when VVMC purchases new equipment, the old equipment must be traded in and sent back. This situation was different, and so we are not always able to reprocess or reuse the equipment.”
Green explained that healthcare providers not only care for the well-being of their patients, but also their family and friends, and the community.
“This is just a calling that most healthcare professionals believe in,” he said. “If as a healthcare professional we can save one person’s life, then we have succeeded in our job, and that keeps us going every day. VVMC was able to provide (the AEDs) to the city who possibly would not have the resources to purchase them, which was a great benefit to the community.”
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