It's a rarely seen area of the QEII Health Sciences Centre, but the Medical Device Reprocessing Department plays a crucial role in the health and safety of patients.

Suzanne Rhodenizer Rose, provincial director of the department, says the site had a very busy 2017.

"We saw almost 13,000 washer loads go through our department, over 9,000 sterilizer loads go through," says Rhodenizer Rose.

And there’s no sign of slowing down. The department is responsible for reprocessing all of the hospital's reusable medical devices, everything from surgical instruments to scopes and probes, and ensuring they are safe for use on patients.

Rhodenizer Rose says this department is crucial.

"Everything that our clinicians use, so our physicians and our nurses, nine times out of 10 they'll be using a medical device that comes through our department," she says. 

The department has over 3,000 different types of instruments and instrument sets.

Barry Pickrem, a certified medical device reprocessing technician, says a typical day covers a lot of ground.

"We start off in decontam. It is cleaning and disinfection that takes place in there. We come out to prep and packaging after that and you visually inspect, you test some of the items, package them and sterilize them," says Pickrem.

The cleaning instruments can be complicated. One in particular comes with 200 pages of cleaning instructions that must be followed.

And as technology advances, so do the tools.

"Surgical instrumentation has become more complex and instruments are more intricate. They have different lumens and channels and they're very complicated, a little bit more so than they were many years ago," says Rhodenizer Rose.

The department says education is key to keep up with the changes.

"We have weekly in services through our staff developer. We have yearly competencies that we have to perform and pass," says Pickrem.

Pickrem says one of their philosophies is to treat each instrument like it is going to be used on a loved one or family member – giving even more care and attention to detail for this safe and sterilized piece of the health care puzzle.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Jayson Baxter.