27 patients at-risk of disease following sterilization error

27 patients at-risk of disease following sterilization error
SEATTLE - Human error is what Swedish Medical Center's First Hill Campus says caused equipment to be incorrectly sterilized, leaving 27 patients at-risk of disease.

Swedish Medical Center officials have advised twenty-seven male patients to be tested for HIV and Hepatitis, after discovering equipment used for ultra sound probes during prostate procedures was not properly sterilized.

The error was discovered by clinical staff in the same-day surgery area of the center, who brought the information to hospital officials on December 17, Swedish Medical Center spokesman Clay Holtzman said. Patients were notified on Saturday, with 25 of the 27 men being reached by phone.

The risk is very low, Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Vassall said, because there is a sheath that covers the probe.

"We believe the device was used properly in all cases, and did not actually come into contact with patients," he said.

In addition to the sheath, a three stage cleaning process normally takes place. The staff cleanses, decontaminates, and sterilizes the equipment.

"Two of those three steps were carried out, the final step was unfortunately omitted, but we've had that problem corrected," Dr. Vassall said.

Even though the device doesn't come into contact with patients, out of abundance of caution, the patients are urged to get tested for HIV, and Hepatitis B and C now, then again in another 3 months.

"It was human error, and we've done an investigation across our institution to make sure it isn't happening anywhere else," Dr. Vassall said. "It's not, it's isolated to this specific area."

Some of the men have already been in for testing, though their results are not yet in. There are no other patients who are at-risk and no potential threat to other patients or the public, the medical center said.