Violet has to work alone.
It’s not that she has personality issues or is difficult to get along with. It’s her ultraviolet rays. Make that, her pulsed xenon gas UV rays.
Mary Scott, Beaufort Memorial Hospital’s infection control manager, was instrumental in the purchase of Violet, a $100,000 “germ-zapping” robot manufactured by Xenex, a San Antonio, Texas-based company. The machine arrived at the hospital Oct. 24.
“Xenon is in the tubes, and it helps send out those pulses around the room so they can kill the organisms,” Scott said as she and a visitor watched through a window as Violet disinfected a patient room, the device’s lights flashing and pulsing.
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In minutes, the robot wipes out any microorganisms that may have existed, Xenex spokeswoman Melinda Hart said. At Beaufort Memorial, Violet disinfects a patient room in 15 minutes — working in three different areas in 5-minute cycles.
“That light is incredibly intense, hundreds of times more intense than sunlight, and what it does is it destroys microorganisms on surfaces. So the flu virus, the norovirus, even the ebola viruses (are killed),” Hart said.
While UV has been used to disinfect for decades, “what makes this robot unique is (the) pulse xenon UV,” Hart said, emphasizing that it does not use mercury bulbs. “... Xenon gas is completely different, much faster and much more effective,” and environmentally friendly, she said.
Beaufort Memorial is one of approximately 400 hospitals worldwide that have a Xenex robot, including institutions such as the Mayo Clinic and M.D. Anderson campuses. The latter was the first hospital system, in 2010, to use one.
“Some of these superbugs now, they’re resistant to chemicals,” Hart said. “... We don’t have antibiotics to treat the diseases they cause, and so that’s why new weapons like Violet … are needed, because we need to get rid of these pathogens before they can infect other patients and hospital workers.”
Violet is “like a kickboxer,” said Cari Hodges, an infection preventionist at Beaufort Memorial. “It will punch bacteria. It punches the bacteria and will break open the cell walls, and, literally, the bacteria cannot survive it.”
While robots might make some jobs obsolete, not this one.
“She’s not replacing anyone,” Hart said. “The rooms still need to be cleaned.”
“This is just that extra level of protection for our families, patients and visitors and staff,” Scott said.
“A lot of people ask me, ‘What is it?’ ” said hospital technician Birdie Wright, who operates Violet regularly. “And I’ll explain to them it’s a germ killer, a germ zapper, and they are very excited about how it works and what kinds of germs it kills.”
When her most important work is done, Violet — who got her moniker from a hospitalwide “Name that robot” campaign — gets used for anything that could use disinfecting.
“I mean, when I go through the floors, the nurses say, ‘Hey, hold up. Let me put something in the room to get it zapped for all germs,’ ” said Wright. “And so today, I did a bunch of shoes.” Cellphones and stethoscopes also get zapped. Smells get knocked out in the process.”