Massive Equipment Sterilization Facility Debuts in Philadelphia

By HCO Staff

PHILADELPHIA—One of the country’s largest healthcare equipment sterilization facilities recently opened in Philadelphia, the result of a design process where meticulous space planning and MEP design were essential. Stantec designed Penn Medicine’s 110,000-square-foot Interventional Support Center (ISC), which serves as an offsite central equipment sterilization and processing facility.

Stantec led the project management, architecture, interior, and MEP designs for the facility. As part of its early role in project planning, a team of Stantec industrial engineers observed operations at one of Penn Medicine’s existing sterilization facilities and conducted time motion studies and simulation modeling. This was done to model the flow of case carts through the new facility, eliminating bottlenecks.

The facility features N+1 redundancy in all building systems, including full-facility generator backup. Air systems include HEPA filtration with frequent air changes, resulting in a nearly dust-free environment.

Located in Southwest Philadelphia, the ISC is the first facility of its kind in Pennsylvania. In this space, staff will both sterilize and package thousands of instruments each day in preparation for surgeries and procedures — from basic scissors and clamps to advanced robotic instruments.

The ISC is designed to process instruments from up to 200 surgical cases each day. Penn purchased the entire building in 2018 and built a physical plant to support the ISC’s operations.

The ISC now combines instrument processing services from the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) and Pennsylvania Hospital (PAH), as well as three outpatient facilities: the Perelman Center, Penn Medicine Radnor, and the Tuttleman Center. The Pavilion — also known as HUP East — will also be supported by the ISC when it opens this fall.

In addition to providing hospital locations with much-needed real estate for patient care, consolidating these services off-site helps to minimize any redundant equipment across the health system. The ISC itself was designed with efficiency in mind – built with Six Sigma expertise, it is designed with a one-way forward flow approach that enables efficient instrument processing. The facility includes features that enhance sterilization efficiency, such as the use of clean steam using reverse osmosis water. The ISC will be a nearly dust-free facility thanks to increased air changes and filtration. Airlocks throughout the building also prevent cross-contamination of air between areas where dirty instruments are process and clean ones are repackaged.

The ISC team currently consists of 140 employees coming together from on-site instrument processing facilities at HUP and PAH. In addition, 25 new employees were hired to staff the new building. The facility was created with ergonomic principles and employee well-being in mind, enabling a comfortable workspace for the ISC team members. All major equipment allows for personalized adjustments for staff, such as height adjustable sinks and assembly tables.

“Clean instruments are a crucial component of patient safety. Through centralized processing with state-of-the-art equipment, the ISC is an important element behind Penn Medicine’s efforts to continue delivering high-quality, advanced patient care and safety,” said Phil Okala, Chief Operating Officer at the University of Pennsylvania Health System. “The ISC also stands as a unique, leading example for multi-hospital health systems looking to create improved processing systems and thoughtfully plan the best ways to maximize capacity for patient care.”