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Sterilization Problems Shut Down Elective Surgeries At Hospital

Hospitals host thousands of surgeries each year, reusing countless surgical supplies and equipment. In order to make sure these surgical tools are kept clean and safe for the next patient, they have to be properly processed and sterilized. When the sterilization process breaks down, patients can suffer serious, life-threatening infections from dirty surgical tools introduction bacteria and viruses into their bodies. A hospital in Canada has canceled all elective surgeries while they examine a problem with their sterilization procedures.

The Windsor Regional Hospital in Ouellette, Ontario experienced a problem with their sterilization system–again. For the second time since June, the hospital has had to cancel or postpone surgical procedures because of serialization concerns. In June, most operating room procedures had to be put off to wait for a new part for the steam system. The latest problem appears to be related to the same system’s heat and steam calibration.

According to the hospital’s CEO David Musyj, “It could be related to the first issue, we don’t really know right now. We must have been working on it since last week and working case-by-case moving surgeries over.”

In order to properly clean medical equipment, many hospitals use sterile processing procedures to appropriately decontaminate, assemble, store, and distribute sterile surgical supplies. Reusable equipment is cleaned and decontaminated using mechanical and chemical disinfection. The clean items are then reassembled and packaged for sterile storage. When the equipment is to be reused, the sterile items are delivered for use.

Hospital officials are still unsure what the real issue is. The cloths used to wrap sterilized equipment are coming out with yellowish-brown stains after going through the system. Musyj says the stains are “scorching” of the cloth. Until the hospital figures out what is going on, between 40 and 50 surgeries a day are being canceled. Other surgeries are being scheduled at another nearby hospital.

According to the hospital, there has not been any apparent rise in the rate of infection for patients in the past 6 months. However, for patients awaiting surgery, the unknown is causing confusion and frustration. Most families and patients are not told that their surgery has been canceled until the night before their scheduled surgery.

Although “experts” have been called in, the hospital is still unsure of the cause of the mysterious stains. Musyj says the problem is “something external,” rather than the result of some human error. So far, rust and iron have been ruled out as the source of the yellowish-brown markings on the sterilization cloths. “They are testing our water, they are testing our system, they are testing the whole system from start to finish,” says Musyj.

If you or a loved one has been injured as the result of an infection in the hospital, and the hospital refuses to give you a straight answer, the attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian are here to help. We are fully equipped to handle the complex process of bringing a medical malpractice claim. Our staff, including a physician and attorneys with decades of malpractice litigation experience, will focus on getting you compensation, so you can focus on healing and moving forward with your life.

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian
Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm’s litigation practice.  Briggs’ legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 


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