On March 23rd, 2009, it was announced that a Veterans Affairs Hospital in Miami Florida used unsterile medical instruments on 3,000 patients. The VA insists that the infection risk is minimal. Yet they are getting in contact with each patient and recommending that they receive an HIV test as a precaution. The equipment in question was water pump tubing hooked up to instruments used during colonoscopies.
The tubing itself supposedly never touched any of the patients. The endoscopic procedures were done between May of 2004 and March of 2009. For five years these tubes were simply rinsed instead of being sterilized. Concerns about cross contamination led to the recent announcement.
But this is not the only recent VA case concerning unsterile colonoscopies. Just a month before this news, it was revealed that 6,000 patients at a Veterans clinic in Tennessee were actually exposed to bodily fluids through the devices! Unfortunately, the story does not end there. 1,800 patients at a veteran’s ear, nose, and throat clinic in Augusta, Georgia were also exposed to infection due to the improper sterilization of endoscopes.
In December 2001, it was made known that unsterile medical injections were common in the less-developed world. It was suspected that 80,000 to 160,000 new HIV transmissions per year were the result of this practice. That does not include the other multiple millions of other types of infections, such as hepatitis. It is estimated that such huge numbers may be increasing deaths by millions per year, regardless of whether or not such practices continue to this day.
A lot of damage has already been done. Having this sort of thing happen in the United States is disturbing enough. The fact that it is a government agency that is supposed to help and serve military personnel instead of harming them is deplorable.
More Breaking News
Today on March 24th, 2009, Senator Bill Nelson from Florida called for a Congressional investigation into these recent incidents at various VA facilities. Veterans Affairs hotlines have been ringing off the hook all day long. They have received thousands of calls from men and woman in the military who are concerned about possible exposure. Hundreds more made visits to clinics in both Miami and Fort Lauderdale specifically because of this issue.
The problem with these incidents is not that human error occurred. That happens. However, it is hard to reconcile the fact that these substandard practices have gone unnoticed for years. Meanwhile thousands upon thousands of people are adversely affected.
There have been many advances in aseptic treatment since Louis Pasteur and Joseph Lister addressed the scientific community in the 19th century. Sterilization is a constantly evolving field, even today. Here in the 21st century the challenge of decontamination has more to do with convenience, record keeping, monitoring, efficiency, and cost control than with basic knowledge. The issue has primarily been “how to build a better mouse trap” not “whether to use the mouse trap at all”. Proper procedures, standards, and equipment must be used at all times when sterilizing medical devices.
Having access to good advice and information is an absolute necessity when selecting any sterilization equipment or autoclave. Make sure you are up to speed by reading this free report before you make your next purchase.