Ventilators contributing to infection control

By Carmela Reyes

Reducing the risk of infection has always been a key priority for hospitals, with the major focus on the importance of handwashing to decrease hospital acquired infections.

Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we connect, the way we work, and the way we live. Handwashing is still crucial in the prevention of infections in hospital settings and beyond; however, the pandemic has placed renewed focus and value on processes and devices that lower the risk of propagating the virus.


Early in the pandemic, a key focus area for provincial and federal governments was securing as many ventilators as possible to help patients whose respiratory systems required mechanically assisted ventilation, while manufacturers focused on ramping up production to meet the exponential increase in demand for ventilators of any kind.

Ventilators have always played an indispensable role in clinical settings. For example, they help patients breathe while under anesthesia and are essential in the management of conditions and injuries that adversely affect the lungs’ ability to function properly.

Acting as bellows to move air in and out of a patient’s lungs, ventilators can help patients breathe or can fully breathe for them – in many cases, keeping patients alive – with the expert programming and management of healthcare providers, such as respiratory therapists and doctors.

 

Helping patients and healthcare providers

While all ventilators perform the basic function of helping patients breathe, few offer the elevated level of protection from respiratory infection to the clinicians providing care, and even fewer are equipped with the expiratory filtering capabilities integrated in Medtronic’s Puritan Bennett™ 980 (PB980) ventilator system.

Just as a surgical or cloth mask does not provide the same protection as the coveted N-95, infection control protocols are increasingly citing the use of respirators with N100 filtration.

“N95 masks are highly sought after for their high level of protection from respiratory transmission of COVID,” says Medtronic Ventilation Product Specialist and RRT, Richard Kauc. “However, N99 and N100 are the highest levels of filtration efficiency – not only for masks, but also for ventilators. The PB980 incorporates N100 filtration for optimal staff protection.”

The risk of infection among healthcare providers may increase with new variants of COVID in Canada. The highest efficiency filter available in Canada, the integrated and heated N100 filter is incorporated in the PB980 system to create a barrier between healthcare providers and infectious airborne pathogens exhaled by patients.

Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre (Sunnybrook) in Toronto uses the PB980 for its innovative integrated filter design that allows the ventilator to check the filter for defects before using it on patients. Additionally, the re-usable filter option grants the hospital self-sufficiency in case of manufacturing interruptions or delays.

Julie Nardi, Clinical Practice Leader for Adult Respiratory Therapy explains, “at Sunnybrook, our teams use the most advanced technology to provide optimal patient care while ensuring the safety of our front-line clinicians.”

The ventilator’s infection control capabilities made it a non-negotiable asset at the hospital, especially during the pandemic.

“Respiratory therapists are involved in the vast majority of aerosol-generating medical procedures across the hospital, presenting a significant exposure risk,” says Nardi. “The PB980’s superior high-efficiency expiratory filter helps to protect our RTs so they can use their highly specialized skills to care for the most critically-ill COVID-19 patients.”

The recently opened Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital – currently dedicated to providing relief for hospital capacity challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic – has also exclusively equipped all of its adult critical care with PB980 ventilators.

With the threat of an impending third wave, hospitals are looking to protect their staff during the pandemic by factoring in infection protection in their procurement process.

“Our people are our most valuable resource when it comes to providing the ultimate in care to our community, especially during the pandemic,” says Erik Nordgren, Director of Equipment at Mackenzie Health, “some people can stay home to protect themselves, but hospital staff  put themselves at risk every day – we want to do our best to take care of them.”

Carmela Reyes is the Sr. Public Relations & Communications Specialist at Medtronic Canada.