Hospitals are usually thought to be a sterile and clean environment. Whether you are going in for routine tests or emergency surgery, you normally won't be concerned that the hospital will be anything less than pristine. However, this has not been the case in at several Detroit Medical Center hospitals for quite some time. According to The Detroit News, "surgeons and staffers have complained for at least 11 years about improperly cleaned, broken and missing instruments." The investigation conducted by The Detroit News looked at "more than 200 pages of internal emails and reports." The documents showed that "improperly sterilized tools complicated operations from appendectomies and brain surgeries to cleft palate repair and spinal fusions." When instruments were not sanitary, doctors had to cancel surgeries or patients were "kept under anesthesia for up to an hour as staffers replaced instruments."
Even more disturbing, there were two times doctors didn't discover that the instruments were not sterilized until they had already cut into and opened a patient. The Detroit News reported that in one such instance, an "open-heart surgery for a 7-month-old girl was interrupted at Children's Hospital of Michigan because a tube leading to a bypass machine was clogged with blood from a previous operation." In addition, during a 17-month period "186 complaints about dirty, missing or incomplete instrument sets" were also logged at the Children's Hospital. The doctors at the hospital were trying to get help from the administration. Chief surgeon Joseph Lelli wrote in an email, "We are putting patients at risk frequently and now canceling up to 10 cases this week ... promises just aren't cutting it."
One doctor interviewed stated that he has "discovered old tissue and blood on surgical equipment that he regularly uses, and has used duct tape on occasion to repair broken instruments during surgeries." Other doctors also reported that "they encounter improperly cleaned, missing or incomplete sets of instruments about once a month or more." The doctors stated that the problem does happen at other hospitals, but far less frequently, "occurring less than once a year."
According to Conrad Mallett, the chief administration officer for the Detroit Medical Center, "the situation stems from a Central Sterile Processing Department in the basement of Receiving Hospital" which cleans the instruments "for all five hospitals at the DMC center campus," including the Children's Hospital. A new company was contracted with to take over the sterilization process at the beginning of June.
Other hospitals that have had sterilization problems have quickly corrected them either because the hospital chose to do so or because of pressure from public health officials. Yet the problems at the Detroit Medical Center hospitals have not been resolved in the same expedient fashion. The Detroit News just published the results of its investigation this past week. Perhaps by exposing the problem, the sterilization issues will finally be resolved.
If you or a loved one has been injured because of medical malpractice, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Offices of Luvell Glanton today at (615) 244-4511.