Keeping You Safe: Health First’s Sterile Processing Techs Protect You During Surgery

By  //  May 3, 2020

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Sterile processing is literally the heart of the hospital behind the scenes

While hospital tours are currently on hiatus due to COVID-19, Minnie, who has been with Health First 39 years, takes pride in talking about all of those who make up the team – one of the essential behind-the-scenes departments that ensures patient safety. (Health First image)

About 50 associates make up the Sterile Processing Departments across Health First’s four hospitals, as well as Melbourne Same-Day Surgery Center

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – When the public used to come in for tours of Health First’s community hospitals, Minnie Garcia jumped at the chance to chat with them.

To her, bringing out a surgical tray was a chance to give people a glimpse into a little-known but crucial team dedicated to keeping surgical equipment as safe and sterile as can be.

“When I opened a surgical tray for a total hip replacement, you should’ve seen the faces,” said Minnie, who has seen plenty of visitors’ mouths drop at the variety of instruments used for the procedure.

Some will tell her, “I never knew this department existed.”

While hospital tours are currently on hiatus due to COVID-19, Minnie, who has been with Health First 39 years, takes pride in talking about all of those who make up the team – one of the essential behind-the-scenes departments that ensures patient safety.

“Without sterile processing, they can’t have surgeries,” Garcia said. “A lot of people don’t realize that. It’s really important.”

About 50 associates make up the Sterile Processing Departments across Health First’s four hospitals, as well as Melbourne Same-Day Surgery Center.

Minnie, a manager, oversees about half of them, who are located at the three community hospitals – Health First’s Cape Canaveral Hospital, Palm Bay Hospital and Viera Hospital.

The remainder of the team is at Health First’s Holmes Regional Medical Center, which also operates Brevard County’s only Level II Trauma Center.

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The department is responsible for sterilizing all medical equipment within Health First’s four hospitals and Melbourne Same-Day Surgery Center.

These could be instruments used for procedures such as C-sections, knee replacements, appendectomies – as well as supplying sanitized operating room, emergency room and crash carts.

Carts filled with various instruments are brought into a decontamination room, where all items are put through a specialized medical equipment washer and sterilizer.

Lights, magnifying glasses and biological tests are among the tools used to ensure every piece of equipment is decontaminated as sterile. The department also is responsible for reprocessing some of the N95 masks.

The department is one that is typically unseen by the public and people rarely think about its existence since they can’t go back there, Minnie said.

“Sterile processing is literally the heart of the hospital behind the scenes,” Minnie said. “We’re open 24 hours.”

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