Filthy, dangerous medical implements have been showing up in hospitals and outpatient surgery centers with alarming regularity. Want proof?

Here are just a few examples cited by a recent post from iWatchNews

  • The Department of Veterans Affairs admitted that between 2002 and 2009, 10,737 veterans in Florida, Tennessee and Georgia were given endoscopies or colonoscopies with endoscopes that may have been improperly cleaned. Some of those patients later tested positive for HIV, hepatitis C, or hepatitis B.
  • When a hepatitis C outbreak hit Las Vegas in 2008, an inquiry revealed that at least six patients undergoing treatment in an outpatient surgery center were subjected to improperly cleaned endoscopes and reused biopsy forceps that were designed for only a single use.
  • Also in 2008, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services inspected 1,500 outpatient surgery centers and cited 28% for infection control deficiencies related to equipment cleaning and sterilization.
  • A risk management clinical engineer at the University of Michigan Health System sampled 350 suction tips used to remove blood and fluids during surgery – ALL of the tips contained either blood, bone, tissue, or rust.

So what’s the problem? Some experts believe that poor design is to blame, while others suggest that highly complex surgical instruments, inadequate device testing, and issues related to poorly-paid hospital employees who clean and sterilize devices between procedures are also at fault. According to Dr. Melissa Schaefer, a medical officer with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “The cases we hear about are only the tip of the iceberg.”

Whatever the reason, the patient shouldn’t be the one who pays the price. What are your thoughts? Have you encountered this problem? We’d like to hear from you.