CLEVELAND, Ohio – MetroHealth has begun sterilizing approximately 50,000 N95 or KN95 masks per day to help address shortages of the critical medical gear amid the coronavirus pandemic.
MetroHealth is using a system developed by U.K.-based manufacturer Bioquell to sterilize the masks. Concentrated hydrogen peroxide is aerosolized to kill 99.99 percent of all pathogens, the health care system said in a news release.
MetroHealth began testing the system’s effectiveness in sterilizing masks a few weeks ago, a spokesman for the health care system said Wednesday. Columbus science and technology firm Battelle uses similar technology, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently authorized the company to sterilize up to 80,000 N95 masks per day.
“Our capacity to reprocess is approximately 50,000 masks a day,” MetroHealth President and CEO Akram Boutros said in the news release. “This will address any potential shortages of these masks and allow us to provide masks to all our employees.”
Used N95 and KN95 masks are hung on racks and sterilized in a sealed-off room. The process takes approximately two hours, the news release says.
Bioquell initially developed the system to disinfect areas affected by anthrax. MetroHealth’s infection prevention team has protocols to use the technology to clean hospital rooms and ambulances contaminated by highly-contagious diseases such as Ebola, anthrax and the coronavirus, the news release says.
The technology is available to MetroHealth because the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention in 2015 designated the health care system as Ohio’s only Ebola treatment center.
MetroHealth’s use of the technology to sterilize masks is aimed not only at combatting the coronavirus but providing doctors and nurses the gear they’ll need to eventually resume screenings and preventative care that have been delayed by the outbreak, the news release says.
Hospitals and health care experts have scrambled to find new ways to sterilize N95 masks as doctors and nurses face critical shortages amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The FDA initially gave limited approval for Battelle to sterilize just 10,000 masks per day, but Gov. Mike DeWine publicly enlisted President Donald Trump’s intervention in fast-tracking the technology.
Correction: A MetroHealth spokesman clarified Wednesday that the FDA did not give the health care system a specific emergency authorization to sterilize masks. Instead, MetroHealth is sterilizing masks based on the authorization given to Battelle.