Royal Columbian Hospital announced Wednesday, May 20, that it is enlisting another weapon in its fight against COVID-19: germ-killing robots. (RCH Foundation/Contributed)

‘Germ-killing robots’ to fight COVID-19 at this B.C. hospital

Two robots will use ultraviolet light in intensive care and high acuity units at Royal Columbian Hospital

A hospital in the Lower Mainland has enlisted two “germ-killing robots” as its latest weapons in the fight to keep COVID-19 from transmitting among patients and staff.

Royal Columbian Hospital Foundation announced Wednesday (May 20) that it had acquired two ultraviolet germicidal irradiation robots, which will be used to deep clean and disinfect “hot spots” in the hospital to kill pathogens, including the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.

“The robots are a safe and effective tool to reduce the risk of infection and help keep patients, healthcare providers, staff, and visitors healthy,” said foundation president, Jeff Norris, in a statement.

The two robots will be used in parts of the hospital such as the intensive care and high acuity units, emitting concentrated ultraviolet light to kill any of the virus lingering on surfaces.

The ultraviolet light emitted by the robots also kills other potentially deadly microorganisms including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Clostridioides difficile (C. difficile), and Candida auris (C. auris).

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Ultraviolet light is effective at killing bacteria and viruses because it destroys the molecular bonds that hold their DNA together.

Health officials have said it isn’t clear specifically how long the virus can live on surfaces, but B.C.’s top doctor, Dr. Bonnie Henry, has said research so far points from hours to days depending on the kind of surface.

Over the past 17 weeks, the New Westminster-based hospital has served as one of B.C.’s primary COVID-19 sites, which means it has been dealing with some of the province’s most critically ill patients.

There are currently five outbreaks declared at hospitals in the province, including in Abbotsford and Maple Ridge, but Royal Columbian is not one of them.

A number of protocols surrounding staff movement, re-organizing wards and creating designated spaces for COVID-19 patients have been implemented in hospitals across the province.

Visitor restrictions are also in place, and all patients get tested for COVID-19 upon being admitted.

WATCH: New COVID-19 testing machine takes load off B.C.’s virologists and labs

On Tuesday (May 19), Henry spoke to the challenges health-care workers faced at Lions Gate Hospital, one of the ongoing medical-facility outbreaks, when it came to determining who had been exposed to the initial case.

In the unfolding of that outbreak being declared, a number of others had been exposed to the the virus before “patient zero” was recognized.

It becomes particular challenging, she added, when patients end up in hospital for other illnesses that make it difficult to recognize the symptoms of the novel coronavirus.

“It speaks to how challenging it is with this virus,” Henry told reporters. “People can be ill with it without recognizing it, particularly early on.”


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ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

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