Hospital First to Use New Masks

By Nicole Ward and R. Stickney
|  Friday, Nov 6, 2009  |  Updated 3:45 PM PDT
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Hospital First to Use New Masks

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A San Diego hospital is using a new type of surgical mask that to a layperson may be reminiscent of the “feds” in the movie “E.T.”

It looks like a surgical mask, but it promises to do much more. With an antimicrobial coating that kills germs on contact, SafeLife's N95 Respiratory is being hailed as a way to fight the swine flu.

Scripps Health in San Diego is the first healthcare system in the U.S. to use the technology.

Workers at three of five facilities around the county had already been fit tested by Friday. The rest of the facilities will be online in the next five days. More than 10,000 healthcare workers will be fit tested overall.

Faced with shortages in medical equipment from current vendors, the hospital started searching for other options.

“We need the product online immediately,” said Patty Skoglund, Administrative Director of Disaster Preparedness with Scripps Health.

Skoglund said employees liked what they saw from SafeLife.

Unlike the current masks used by hospital employees, the new masks can be reused because of an antimicrobial coating on the surface that kills germs on contact. Traditional masks just collect the germs.

Hospital staff can also move between patients with the same mask and not risk cross-contamination, Skoglund said.

The N95 respirators cost a buck or two per mask depending on the size of the order which is more than traditional masks cost.
According to SafeLife, headquartered in San Diego, the cost difference is because they make a premium product.

For Scripps Health, employee safety and ease of use were key in the decision to use the masks, not cost.

“The benefits outweight the costs to a certain extent,” said Skoglund. “It will become very effective if we have to move to extreme measures.” 

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