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Sterilisation wrap crisis averted

The move towards using metal sterilisation canisters will ensure local patients are no longer impacted by a nationwide sterilisation wrap shortage.

Peri-Operative Services Manager Lois Foley and Central Sterilising Supply Department Manager Carolyn Hannon showing the sterilisation wrap (to the left) and the new metal sterilisation canisters (to the right)
Peri-Operative Services Manager Lois Foley and Central Sterilising Supply Department Manager Carolyn Hannon showing the sterilisation wrap (to the left) and the new metal sterilisation canisters (to the right).

The introduction of metal sterilisation canisters has transformed the way surgery is delivered at NHW.

Sterilisation wrap is a barrier system that ensures sterilised instruments remain free of organisms when in storage and also when required for surgery.

The wrap is manufactured with a product called polypropylene, which is also used to make some PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) like face masks, which has been in strong demand throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

The shortage of sterilisation wrap has caused elective surgeries to be postponed at hospitals across Australia, including in some instances at NHW.

For the past two weeks, NHW has been using metal sterilisation canisters, which perform the same role as sterilisation wrap but are reusable.

Central Sterilising Supply Department Manager Carolyn Hannon said the canisters meant that elective surgery should not need to be cancelled due to the sterilisation wrap shortage.

“The metal canisters are reusable and have a longer shelf life than sterilisation wrap, so they can last for six months before having to re-wash and re-sterilise unused equipment,” she said.

“There is also a significant environmental benefit. Sterilisation wrap can only be used once and would then need to be disposed of, so NHW has reduced the amount of waste going to landfill.

Ms Hannon said the aim was to ensure local community members continued to have access to elective surgery.

“It’s fantastic our hospital could see the benefit of moving this way,” she said.

“If we hadn’t there is a greater chance more surgeries would have been cancelled.”