Renovations during a pandemic to improve MDR service


John Cumming stands in front of the carts holding equipment.

May 14, 2021

In October 2020, the Medical Device Reprocessing (MDR) unit at London Health Sciences Centre’s University Hospital began a long-awaited capital project to upgrade its facilities in order to meet Accreditation standards next year. MDR staff worked throughout the construction which required collaboration among several departments and constant reorganization of the space to continue delivering exceptional quality and safety.

The MDR unit is where the equipment used is cleaned, sterilized and prepared for upcoming medical procedures. The capital project required the replacement of two large steam sterilizers and the ceiling. The sterilizers were past their due life and frequently down for maintenance, and the ceiling required asbestos removal and raising. Accreditation Canada’s standards require the ceilings in the MDR to be a cleanable non-porous, non-shedding material with a smooth finish to facilitate cleaning. Prior to the renovations, the ceilings did not meet these requirements.

The MDR is a sterile environment and must be kept clean from dust and debris to meet stringent Infection Prevention and Control standards. Collaboration among staff in MDR, Facilities Management, and the construction company was essential to ensure the area was sterile during the construction.

“It’s been a bit like a dance with multiple partners,” says Suzanne Schwab, MDR manager, in explaining the level of coordination required including working with Operating Room personnel. “Staff have really banded together to work around the construction.”

John Cumming, a Sterile Processing Department Attendant has been providing what he calls customer service to the operating rooms for 15 years. The MDR at University Hospital provides trays for roughly 45 cases per day normally which includes thousands of trays and instruments. It uses a system of tracking for the equipment and trays which are organized and stored on carts.

Cumming was the person responsible for moving and rearranging the carts of equipment every week to provide space for the construction teams while making sure the MDR team could locate and access the carts and trays for clients. The construction schedule necessitated this reorganization of the carts on a weekly basis. He ensured the carts were numbered and in order for his colleagues to be able to support the different areas of the hospital.

Cumming approached the project with passion, creating and laminating ID tags for each cart to help identify them and the contents, and figuring out how to position the carts. “My goal was to make this as smooth as possible for the team and our clients,” he explains. He admits that some weeks were easier to organize than others due to limited space and likens it to a game of Tetris.

Prior to the renovations, the space in the MDR at University Hospital was very tight. Cumming explains that while everyone in the department was used to the space and found it functional, it was dark due to the lighting. “Now, with the new higher ceilings, it is much brighter,” says Cumming. “It’s a nice change and there is better energy and work flow with more of an open concept.”

While the construction provided noise, reduced lighting and restricted workspace, Cumming is happy with the end result. “I got a lot of job satisfaction from participating in it.”

“The team was tired in November when we started, but they knew it needed to happen, that the end result would be good, so we moved ahead with major construction even though it’s a pandemic. This undertaking required so many people in the planning to move things forward,” says Schwab. Together they are working to deliver exceptional quality and safety to LHSC patients and their families.