Thursday, January 25, 2007

Northern Health sends out advisory letter to 74 past patients

While the expectation is that the risk is low, Northern Health has taken the unusual step of issuing a public notice to former patients, who underwent laparoscopic surgery procedures at the Prince Rupert Hospital last year.

There is the possibility, all be it slight, that they could have become infected by a piece of new equipment that was improperly cleaned last year. The machinery known as an endoclinch grasper was used between March and August and while it was always sterilized; it wasn’t necessarily taken apart each time that it was cleaned, leading to the advisory issued on Thursday.

Concerns were raised by hospital staff in August and the situation was taken care of then, though it does lead one to wonder why there is a gap between August and January before any notification to the public was provided.

The risk of transmission of infection is rated as low, but because the Hospital could not guarantee zero percent of risk, they decided to make their concerns known.

Patients have been advised to contact their family doctors should they have any questions or concerns about the situation.

The CBC website has the full details on the notice and posted it to their site on Thursday evening.

Prince Rupert patients warned about possible infection
Last Updated: Thursday, January 25, 2007 4:12 PM PT
CBC News

Health officials in northern B.C. say there's an "exceedingly low risk" that any patients contracted an infection from a piece of improperly cleaned surgical equipment at the Prince Rupert hospital last year.

The Northern Health Authority has sent letters to 74 patients, alerting them to the problem, and advising them to consult their family doctors if they have any concerns.

The new piece of equipment — an endoclinch grasper — was used by one surgeon between March and August.

It's an alligator clip on a long shaft that's used to hold the patient's tissue during laparoscopic surgery.

Officials say it was always sterilized, but staff didn't completely disassemble it before it was cleaned.

A staff person raised concerns in August, and the problem was fixed.

Dr. David Butcher said the risk of transmission of infection was very low.
"Having said that, we couldn't guarantee there was a zero risk," he said.

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