QC man told his surgical equipment not fully cleaned

  • Jan. 31, 2007 11:00 a.m.

Michael Brown was not feeling well the day he found out he may be at risk of an infectious disease, after his surgery at the Prince Rupert hospital, but after a roller coaster of emotions, he is on the mend. At first he was shocked. His abdominal surgery took place in April 2006, but it wasn’t until January 2007 when he received a letter from Northern Health saying that a piece of equipment used in his surgery had not been cleaned properly. “Why would they wait so long?” asked Mr. Brown. The letter referred to an endoclinh grasper, an alligator clip used to hold the patient’s tissue during laparoscopic surgery, which had not been cleaned to the manufacturer’s standards. Although full sterilization had taken place, the piece of equipment had not been fully disassembled first. Mr. Brown understood that to mean that a piece of tissue from another patient could have been stuck in the joints of the equipment when used during his surgery. A Northern Health staff member brought the matter to the attention of administration and they have since rectified the problem. The letter said the risk of transmission was very low, but Northern Health thought patients would like a chance to speak to their doctors about this oversight. And as vice-president of medicine Dr. David Butcher said, “We couldn’t guarantee there was zero risk.” Mr. Brown’s shock turned to anxiety, when he heard an interview on the radio. Although Northern Health hadn’t stated what he might be at risk of, 74 other patients had received letters similar to his. In one interview, Mr. Brown heard talk of possible risk of hepatitis or AIDS. Since then, Mr. Brown has been to his local doctor. He assured Mr. Brown that if the equipment were going to have caused any trouble after the surgery, the problem would have shown up by now. His doctor did not advise any further tests. Even though it turned out to be a tempest in a teapot, Mr. Brown says he is glad the hospital felt duty-bound to tell patients about the matter. And despite all the worry it caused him later, he is still satisfied with the care he received during the original surgery. Mr. Brown says Dr. Nell, the surgeon who did the work in Prince Rupert, is one of the best in the field and northerners are lucky to have him in our midst.

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