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Surgery department at Delta Health earns another low surgical infection rate

Mar 12, 2021News

Delta, CO (March 12, 2021) – For the surgery department at Delta Health, maintaining a low surgical infection rate is a rigorous process that takes teamwork.

For patients looking to receive surgery, reviewing a facility’s surgical infection rate is critical to the quality of the surgical outcome. Historically, Delta Health has maintained a low surgical infection rate. In 2020 Delta Health’s surgical infection rate, or the number of infections per surgery for the year, was only 0.2 percent; lower than the national average of roughly three to five percent.

Amber Cotten is a Certified Registered Sterilization Technician (CRCST) at Delta Health and plays a crucial role in that process. Cotten is in charge of washing, cleaning, inspecting and sterilizing all instruments needed for surgeries and all instruments from Delta Health clinic locations. On any given day, Cotten may turnover 2,000 instruments.

“The process can sometimes take a full day. But it all starts in the operating room where they wipe down the instruments and soak them so that they can come to me,” said Cotten. “Once they get to me I have to hand scrub them, rinse them and put them in a sonic which vibrates the instruments and vibrates loose all of the [particles] that I can’t see. I then re-rinse them and put them in a washer at 180 degrees for about 45 minutes before letting them dry.”

Once the instruments are completely dry, Cotten has to wrap them and put them into an autoclave, or steam sterilizer, where the process takes 49 minutes with 4-minute sterilization cycles at 270 degrees. The instruments are then taken out to cool for an hour to an hour and a half. Once they finish drying and cooling, they can are ready to be used.

Cotten was the first CRCST to join the Delta Health team, but in December 2020, Seth Jacobs joined as the second CRCST. Every year they must undergo training, classes and conferences to maintain their membership and keep their certification.

“Colorado does not require Sterilization Techs to be certified, but we felt it was important for Amber to do that,” said Felicia Heinz, Director of Surgery for Delta Health.

The Delta Health team is also in charge of disinfecting all of the N95 masks for Delta County.

For Heinz, the golden standard for surgeries is to not have a surgical site infection. That is why it is so important for patients to be looking at a facility’s surgical site infection rate when deciding where to get care, said Heinz, a patient’s outcome is dependent on it.

“We have a great surgical rate here at Delta Health and it’s the golden standard,” said Heinz. “That is why I am so proud to say that our team goes above and beyond to provide quality care. It starts with Amber and Seth of course, but we also have a wonderful team of scrub technicians, nurses and physicians who all play a vital role.”

The sterilization process means that Cotten’s sterilization room be treated like an operating room that must be fully wiped down and sanitized. Every Friday Cotten has to clean her washers and cleaning equipment to make sure that any particles that are stuck on the sides and crevices are broken down.

“Descaling my equipment cleans out all of the biomaterials that get stuck to the metal, and I have to do that every week,” said Cotten. “Once a month I also have to clean out the autoclaves, and I have to climb inside and scrub it all down by hand. I have to clean all of my equipment so that I can keep the instruments clean so that we don’t get any infections.”

Choosing to undergo surgery is a big decision, and the team at Delta Health is committed to providing remarkable care. The surgery department calls patients the day before surgery to answer any questions and to provide instructions on what to expect. The current COVID-19 visitation policy for Delta Health also allows patients to have one visitor with them in the pre-operation room.

“It helps a lot for our patients to have a person with them when undergoing an operation,” said Heinz. “We want our patients to feel comfortable and confident in the care that they are receiving, and our team goes above and beyond to provide compassionate care.”

The Environmental Services team has also continued stringent cleaning and disinfecting practices. With their new Surfacide Helios UV-C cleaning system they use ultraviolet light to thoroughly disinfect operating rooms.

As Delta Health’s county-wide healthcare system continues to expand, Heinz said the surgery department is looking forward to the future.

“We added Urology last year and we now have three Ear, Nose and Throat physicians,” said Heinz. “This means handling a lot more equipment for our physicians, but we are continuing to invest in these new services to make sure our physicians have the equipment they need to provide quality care to our patients.”

To learn more about the surgery department at Delta Health, visit or call 970.874.2228.

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