Clean team scrub up for new Blacktown Hospital building

The Central Sterilising Services Department team at Blacktown Hospital in their state-of-the-art new unit

A state-of-the-art new sterilising department is processing thousands of items every day to keep it clean behind the scenes at Blacktown Hospital.

The new unit opened at Blacktown last week as part of the hospital’s more than $700 million expansion project, and staff love the new design.

“I love the space, the new scanning system and the new machines,” sterilisation services team leader Victoria Vergara said.

“We have more washers, more room to expand, and we have the first endoscopy steriliser in NSW which we will soon be commissioning, so we’re very excited to be able to offer that service.”

With 29 years’ experience in sterilising, Victoria said it was very satisfying to see the changes, including height-adjustable sinks to suit all staff, and batch washers which automatically select the next crate for washing, ensuring a consistent flow and more efficient use of the system.

“The biggest change is that in the old system everything was done manually,” she said.

“There was more lifting and more manual handling. Now everything is automatic, motorised or digital and that is big improvement.”

Sterilisation Services team leader Victoria Vergara with one of the new plasma sterilisers, used for cleaning delicate items.

Sterilising Services department manager Robert Boreham said the design was second to none, and staff have embraced it with “open arms”.

“We’ve been consulting with staff about the layout of equipment in the department and how it would work best for them, and that’s really given them ownership of the new unit,” Robert said.

“Everyone likes the spaciousness and the workflow.”

The unit operates seven days a week, including 14 hours a day on weekdays, and eight hours a day on weekends and public holidays to support emergency and surgery.

Every day they process up to 100 trays of multiple items, 300 separates and as many as 60 hollowares (such as bowls). It’s no surprise that it requires exacting attention to detail.  

Sterilising Technician Rajiththa Preyanthan using the new scanner which tracks items as they are cleaned and processed ready for use.

“The most complex items would be orthopaedic loan items which include complex screws, a lot of different bone drills and different-sized plates,” Robert explained.

“Each and every screw has different threads and different degrees of fineness, and they all need to be individually identified.

“It’s complex and time-consuming and, like all our processes, it needs to be done with extreme care because patient safety is everything to us.”

To cope with the variety of items, the unit has a large cart washer which can wash “just about anything”, four batch washers, four steam sterilisers, and two plasma sterilisers which use hydrogen peroxide to sterilise delicate items like scopes, which can’t tolerate high temperatures but need to be scrupulously clean. 

“It’s not just that there’s extra equipment –  it’s the latest state of the art equipment which is more efficient and helps prolong the life of the instruments,” Robert said.

“We have more sterilisers and there’s space to expand in the future.”