Timaru Hospital BiopSafe Case Study

Timaru Hospital in South Canterbury is responsible for the care of over 50,000 New Zealanders residing between the Rangitata and Waitiki Rivers and as far west as the Southern Alps. With 135 beds, four theatres and a recently developed endoscopy unit, Timaru Hospital covers a wide range of services.

The Challenge:

As with all busy theatre units, specimen preparation and processing is a key part of day-to-day work in care for patients. These tasks come with the inherent risks of formalin exposure. Formalin is classified as toxic and carcinogenic. Every time a specimen container lid is removed, nurses are exposed to formalin liquid, gas or vapour in the air. This can cause effects such as headaches, and allergic reactions to the skin and eyes. In severe cases such as formalin spills or bulk decanting, very high concentrations of exposure through inhalation or even skin contact can occur, presenting a significant health and safety issue.

To mitigate the danger, Timaru Hospital had a process in place that meant an RN was dedicated to remaining with specimen pots during the processing and preparation of samples to ensure that no spillage or adverse event occurred. This unnecessarily tied up valuable nursing time.

Due to these harmful risks to the theatre team, they knew they needed to fix this problem but didn’t know what the solution would be. Was there a solution for nurses and physicians to avoid contact with formalin?

The Solution

After studying the negative effects of formalin and realising both the short and long-term risks, Timaru Hospital reached out to Hallmark Surgical to trial the BiopSafe Histology Containers.

BiopSafe was first launched in 2009, as a unique solution to eliminate exposure to formalin during specimen preparation. Open the container, place the specimen in the vial, tighten the lid, and press your thumb on the lid, specimen processing is completed, and the formalin is released. Therefore everything is done inside the container, eliminating exposure and any harmful effects on theatre staff.

The Timaru theatre team loved this simple way that BiopSafe entirely eliminated formalin exposure while involving minimal change to their processes and did not require any capital expenditure.

Trial and implementation:

During the Timaru Hospital trial of BiopSafe, several points had to be addressed. These included:

  • Staff education
  • Acceptance of BiopSafe by the laboratory team
  • Testing of BiopSafe in transport

The Hallmark Surgical team managed and coordinated with Timaru Hospital and their laboratory partner and helped with any concerns such as transport and storage. A key part of this consideration included factoring in the transport of specimens from Timaru Hospital to Awanui Labs Christchurch and ensuring that no sample degradation occurred. Both the teams at Awanui Timaru and Christchurch were excellent and saw the exceptional advantage BiopSafe provided in addition to safety to the theatre team.

Following acceptance by the laboratory team, Hallmark Surgical held a full team in service in Timaru with the BiopSafe water samples. These samples provide an excellent opportunity for teams to fully understand how BiopSafe works and become familiar with the product in a safe environment.

Key Benefits:

  • Eliminates all exposure to formalin
  • Ready in seconds with the push of a button
  • No leakage: until the product is used, the formalin is sealed within the lid meaning even if the lid was to come off, no formalin would be released.
  • Eliminates the need for open pots in theatre releasing valuable nursing time

Since Implementation:

Timaru Hospital is now several months into the use of BiopSafe. They are very happy and pleased with the safety of this product and use both the 60ml and 20ml sizes for small specimens, lesions and biopsies. In the words of their theatre team, they love the fact, “There is no exposure to the chemical until the lid is on and the RN chooses to release it, therefore much safer for staff”. They confirm their full recommendation for BiopSafe to other theatre units and Hallmark Surgical is pleased to be removing this workplace hazard and delivering safety for nurses throughout New Zealand with BiopSafe.