While residents look forward to the first family visits in over two months starting May 29, a recent innovation is helping ease the pain of separation. Salem Home in Winkler went into lockdown March 13th; no visitors, no cards or gifts as staff remained vigilant to protect the most vulnerable during the current virus outbreak.

"For residents to not receive anything... it's a long time," Salem Home CEO Sherry Janzen says.

However, residents received another ray of hope recently thanks to the innovative thinking and technical expertise of the local business community which has allowed staff to safely disinfect gifts and other items.

The personal care home's new Ultraviolet (UV) Disinfection Chamber is able to kill germs, bacteria, and viruses at the microscopic level, allowing families to bring in items or gifts to their loved ones.

Before the device, staff say they wouldn't have been able to accommodate those requests.

Janzen says the UV chamber especially came in handy on Mother's Day. "It's hard... how do you disinfect a flower?"

With the right equipment, it just takes a minute.

UV rays are effective at killing germs, bacteria, and viruses at the microscopic level.

"The flowers are a ray of sunshine and colour at a time when many restrictions are in place to keep the residents safe," Janzen says, adding Salem Home is the only facility in the Southern Health-Santé Sud region to relax those restrictions, a move only made possible thanks to the new equipment.

Items placed inside are exposed to UV light for just over a minute, killing any pathogens on the surface. Staff say research suggests UV is highly effective and similar disinfection processes are used in a variety of applications.

The project was made possible thanks to leads Karl Enns of Altona and Justin Zacharias of Winkler, together with support from Willie Enns of Winkler and several local  businesses including D. A. Loewen Electric, Lode King Industries and Serious Marketing, as well as research and testing through the University of Manitoba, Brandon University and Health Sciences Centre of Winnipeg.

Learn more about the device by contacting Justin Zacharias at Constellation Computers in Winkler.