Large hospitals maintain a number of operation theatres. All these are served by a common central sterile supply department tasked with the responsibility of sterilization of surgical tools, equipments, cathethers and rubber products, equipments and syringes.
The central sterile supply department or CSSD as it is known, has a heavy responsibility on its hands given the wide-ranging infectious diseases that may be handled by the hospital staff. They must not only ensure that each instrument, device and tool is perfectly sterilized to be absolutely free of pathogens, bacteria, yeast and viruses but also pack them in medically sterile packaging and transport them to the required operation theatres without any risk of contamination between the time they are sterilized and the time they are opened for any aseptic procedures or for surgical procedures.
A typical CSSD in a large hospital would handle these operations:
- Organize instruments into sets
- Carry out disinfection and mechanical treatment including autoclaving and washing in a highly controlled environment with facilities to record and monitor each batch for accountability.
- Visually check all sterilized items for completeness and pack surgery room apparel.
- Medical supplies packing.
The last may seem a routine step but it is the most crucial one to ensure total protection against any contamination from the time the item has been sterilized to the time it is taken out and used in the ward or in the operation theatre. Any equipment, tool or instrument may be sterilized to perfection and so certified. However, if the medical packing is less than adequately sterilized to international norms then it could be a source of contamination and defeat the purpose of sterilization. If the packing is not secure enough, though it may be 100% sterile, it may allow spores, viruses and bacteria to contaminate tools inside while they are being moved from the CSSD to the operation theatres. Being sterile is one thing; the medical packaging or sterilized packaging must also be secure enough without the tiniest of microscopic openings that may allow spores or viruses inside once it is sealed. Given how crucial the packaging is, CSSDs routinely insist on companies supplying these products to conform to ISO 14644 norms and to manufacture such products in class 8, absolutely sterile cleanrooms on automated equipments. People in charge of the process are just as crucial to the final quality of medical packaging: trained professionals with a fanatical approach to absolute hygiene are a pre-requisite.
Trusting a manufacturer of such packaging used for sterile products based on the processes and equipments as well as facilities is one thing; trust is enhanced when the manufacturer routinely has third party inspection agencies carry out tests on the facility as well as the products.
Lives are at stake: those of the patients undergoing treatments and surgical processes as well as doctors and assisting staff inside operation theatres. The packaging may be the disposable type or the reusable type but its quality keeps people safe and protected by keeping surgical equipment, tools and instruments fully protected.