Stark County’s two largest hospitals have, on average, nine COVID-19 patients in their care. The hospitals have resumed elective procedures.

CANTON Stark County’s two hospitals have resumed elective surgeries and other outpatient procedures after improving and increasing their cleaning and sanitization practices.

In addition to one-day surgeries, Aultman Hospitals and Mercy Medical Center are conducting mammograms, endoscopies and some orthopedic procedures.

Aultman spokesman Jason Clevenger said they resumed elective surgeries on May 1.

Mercy Medical Center reopened outpatient surgeries (on) May 4, for cases that do not require an overnight stay, said Cindy Hickey, Mercy’s director of communications.

"Patients who require an overnight stay or admission must meet certain criteria which is required prior to the physician scheduling the case," Hickey added.

Both hospitals and their affiliated facilities have increased the frequency of room cleaning, enacted new personal protective equipment and mask policies, and provided additional training to clinical staff on hand hygiene and PPE use.

Currently, both hospitals are averaging just nine admitted COVID-19 patients in each hospital.

"When it comes to infection prevention, both Mercy and Aultman have comprehensive programs in place that include antibiotic stewardship, hand hygiene and education, to name just a few of our best practices," said Daniel Lane, director of quality at Mercy said in a statement. "We intend to give patients, guests and staff the safest environment possible in their time of need."

Robot brigade

Aultman and Mercy also are disinfecting surfaces in their main facilities in Canton using Xenex LightStrike robots, which emit a pulsed, ultraviolet (UV) light that quickly destroys bacteria, viruses, fungi and bacterial spores.

"In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the environmental services teams have enhanced the disinfection efforts with increased frequency of cleaning and the use of our UV disinfecting robots in all patient care and public areas throughout Canton hospitals," said Jo Ann DiPierro, Aultman’s director of environmental services said in a statement.

According to Xenex, the robots are the first and only UV disinfection technology that has been proven to deactivate the COVID-19 virus. They use flashes of intense UV-C light to penetrate the cell walls of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, mold, fungus and spores. Their DNA is fused, rendering them unable to reproduce or mutate, effectively killing them on surfaces.

Visits still restricted

The robots can disinfect a typical patient or procedure room in five minutes. They can be used in any department and in any unit within a health care facility.

Aultman and Mercy use their robots to disinfect rooms throughout the hospitals, particularly where the most vulnerable patients are treated, including intensive care units, emergency departments, isolation rooms, cath labs, NICUs, operating rooms, endoscopy units and wound centers.

"Mercy Medical Center was the first hospital in Stark County to use these robots that safely emit germicidal ultraviolet (UVC) rays during the cleaning process," Hickey said. "We currently have three Xenex robots."

Clevenger said Aultman’s Environmental Services staff underwent special training to learn how operate the robots, which were were purchased by the Women’s Board of Aultman Hospital.

Mercy Medical Center's Service League purchased the first of its Xenex robots with proceeds raised by its signature fundraising event, The Harvest Ball. Its most recent robot was purchased through a $103,000 donation by Scott and Karen Fitzpatrick. Scott Fitzpatrick is a member of the Mercy Development Foundation board of directors.

Visitation at both hospitals continues to be restricted, and all patients, employees and visitors are required to wear a mask while in the facilities, with the exception of people who cannot wear one for medical reasons, and children under 2.