Pullman Regional Hospital

High-touch areas throughout hospital receive makeover with antimicrobial copper

(Pullman, Washington - Nov. 18, 2014) - A level IV trauma center in Washington State has installed copper components throughout its facility as another way of reducing the bacteria* that cause hospital-acquired infections.

Pullman Regional Hospital has become an early adopter of antimicrobial copper after studies found that the age-old metal could continuously kill deadly bacteria*.

Each year, 2 million people in the United States are diagnosed with a hospital-acquired infection and nearly 100,000 people die. These infections are caused by bacteria such as MRSA and VRE.

"It is a very serious problem," said Ed Harrich, the director of surgical services for Pullman Regional Hospital. "I think every hospital across the nation is doing everything they can to try to deal with it the best that they can. But there's bioburden on everything and people aren't good at hand washing and there's cross-contamination everywhere you go."

Through a Patient Safety Challenge grant, Pullman was able to purchase and install the following copper hardware throughout the 95,000-square foot facility: faucet levers on 40 sinks in the public restrooms found in patient rooms and hallway basins, handles for the IV poles used in the BirthPlace, ICU and Medical Surgery Unit, and handicapped-access buttons for double-doors.

While the materials used for touch surfaces are often overlooked as opportunities to improve patient safety during the hospital design process, installing copper supplements the existing infection control practices utilized by the facility. Antimicrobial copper products are highly durable and can last for decades. Retrofitting a hospital with antimicrobial copper is an investment with long-term benefits.

Today more than two dozen U.S. manufacturers are producing antimicrobial copper components - everything from door handles, stair handrails, grab bars, sinks, carts and other specialty instrument trays. With several different copper alloys to choose from, products can exhibit the warm tones of brushed nickel, the colder white of stainless steel, the warm yellows of brass and bronze, or the traditional red of copper.

Pullman plans to install more than 420 copper cabinet pulls throughout the hospital in the coming weeks and months.  Eventually, the administration would like to add countertops, the armrests of chairs, bed rails and bed handles made of copper.

"We're excited," said Jeannie Eylar, R.N., chief clinical officer for Pullman Regional Hospital. "We feel like we're on the right path…and we feel like copper is helping us achieve the outcome that we want."

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*Laboratory testing shows that, when cleaned regularly, antimicrobial copper surfaces kill greater than 99.9% of the following bacteria within 2 hours of exposure: MRSA, VRE, Staphylococcus aureus, Enterobacter aerogenes, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and E. coli O157:H7. Antimicrobial copper surfaces are a supplement to and not a substitute for standard infection control practices and have been shown to reduce microbial contamination, but do not necessarily prevent cross contamination or infections; users must continue to follow all current infection control practices.

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