WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- White Plains Hospital welcomed two new members to its staff on Tuesday. But you won't see them around the water-cooler.
Two germ-zapping robots, affectionately named by staff members as "Sparkle," and "R2 Clean2," have been acquired by the hospital and use ultraviolet light to destroy mold, bacteria and viruses.
The robots, manufactured by Xenex Disinfection Systems, have been proven to be 20 times more effective than chemical cleansers against germs and superbugs like Clostridium difficile and MRSA.
Resembling R2-D2 from Star Wars, the dome-shaped robot rises to 5'2, then emits a pulsing, germ-killing ultraviolet light in 5-10 minute cleaning cycles.
"This is adding a final layer to patient safety," said Rachael Sparks, technical director of Xenex.
The robots will be used to clean patient rooms, operating rooms, equipment rooms, emergency rooms, intensive care units and public areas.
"It's flu season, and we know we're all a little worried about that for our kids, parents and ourselves," she said, "Essentially what Xenex is trying to do is get rid of the little germs and buggies on hospital surfaces that spread infection."
The light penetrates the cell walls of bacteria, viruses, mold and fungus, causing the pathogens' DNA to fuse and render them unable to reproduce or mutate.
According to Sparks, the machines cost about $100,000 each. Treating a single infection in a hospital can cost over $23,000.
"Basically, if you use Xenex to stop three infections, the machine has paid for itself," she said.
Susan Fox, president of the hospital, said, "We're very excited to have this new technology at the hospital. We have the lowest infection scores in the area, and investments in technology will help make sure we stay ahead of the curve in making sure our patients are safe."
The light emitted by the Xenon-bulb can damage the eyes, so the machines must always operated in an unoccupied room. They even have a motion-detector that prompts automatic shutdown should someone enter the room.
The hospital has designated staff member Adam Braccia of Eastchester to handle the robots each day.
"I feel very comfortable handling them, I understand the technology," he said, "I get 15 to 20 rooms cleaned a day."