New tech is NUH's pill to fight off superbugs

SINGAPORE - Bed pans which are shredded after use, and a machine which can clean hard-to-reach corners - the National University Hospital (NUH) is turning to new technology to help bring down the rate of infections.

At present, about 2.5 per cent of its patients come down with superbug methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, said Associate Professor Dale Fisher, NUH's infectious diseases division head.

Such hospital superbugs require powerful and sometimes costly antibiotics, and could be fatal. "We see a need to do more," he said, adding that rates of other similar infections are "creeping up".

Which is why, for a start, four wards at the hospital are now using disposable bed pans, urinals, measuring jugs and vomit bowls made of wood pulp.

They can be thrown into a macerator machine to be shredded and flushed away like toilet paper.

Not only does it cut out the need to wash the items, senior staff nurse Sapphire Teo said: "The patients also find it very hygienic."

Another gadget works by fumigating a sealed room with hydrogen peroxide vapour to kill germs.

"There is only so much you can do with manual cleaning," said Prof Fisher. Surveys conducted since last year found that when rooms are wiped with bleach by hand, some spots are missed out - such as hard-to-reach corners and innocuous items like television remote controls.

The new system may take twice the 45 minutes normally needed to wipe a room, but it can ensure a close to 100 per cent germ-free environment.

This technology will be used at NUH's intensive care units and isolation rooms, where patients with infectious diseases such as tuberculosis are warded.

Altogether, the hospital has spent some $350,000 for five hydrogen peroxide vapour machines and four macerators.

Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.

Purchase this article for republication.