Proper sterilization techniques are paramount to patient safety, especially for those who might be otherwise vulnerable or immunocompromised. Improperly sterilizing medical and surgical tools can have devastating consequences that can extend beyond an infection. A children's hospital outside of New Jersey recently notified tens of thousands of families that their children might have been exposed to severe diseases, all because of a problem with sterilization.
Approximately 12,000 families, all of whom had a child who had been surgically treated at the facility sometime within the previous five years, received the warning. According to reports, the affected children will need to be tested and monitored for HIV and hepatitis B and C. The CEO released a statement that the hospital simply being cautious and that, to its knowledge, no one had actually fallen ill yet.
Some families do not feel overly reassured by the statement. Although they were warned of the possible exposure, it is still not entirely clear how such a serious mistake was allowed to proceed for five years unchecked. The hospital has not given any serious details other than to say that safety sterilization procedures for surgical instruments and equipment were simply not followed.
Hospital neglect is a real and present danger for patients. It might be tempting to push this occurrence aside as some type of isolated event, but the reality is much grimmer. According to data from 2001, patients in New Jersey and across the country might not be all that safe in hospitals, as 700,000 patients contracted an infection while at the hospital that year. These types of potentially deadly exposures often require additional testing and medical care, which typically results in substantial medical bills. Patients facing these types of damages sometimes turn to the civil courts, where a successful navigation of a medical malpractice suit can result in appropriate recourse.
Source: inquisitr.com, "This Washington Children's Hospital Warns Thousands Of Families Of Possible HIV Exposure Due To Unspecified Sterilization Error", Dawn Papple, Sept. 24, 2015