‘Here we go again’
No need for alarm over alarm malfunction: Eastern Health
Eastern Health has fessed up to another equipment malfunction that could have had an effect on thousands of patients in Conception Bay North.
Officials with Eastern Health announced last Thursday afternoon, April 16 it was highly unlikely any one of the 2,900 people who were tested with a gastrointestinal scope - which was improperly cleaned by a malfunctioning piece of cleaning equipment - are affected in a negative way.
Officials with the health board told reporters that the machine cleans the scope, which is used to diagnose gastrointestinal illnesses - was only using about one quarter of the disinfecting solution it was supposed to. The alarm, which is supposed to notify technologists the machine is malfunctioning, didn’t go off.
It wasn’t until a worker at the Carbonear General Hospital realized she hadn’t changed the bottle of disinfectant in a while, that she realized something was wrong with the machine.
Fay Matthews, chief operating officer of the rural Avalon division of Eastern Health, says the machine could have been malfunctioning since November 2007.
After discovering the problem, Matthews says the machines were shut down, the manufacturer was called, the other machines were tested and an investigation was launched by Eastern Health, Health Canada and the manufacturer.
The other health authorities were also notified so they could check their machines.
Dr. Jim Hutchinson, clinical chief of the infection control program, says that because the step in the cleaning process is one of five and the unlikelihood that those who were tested with the scope were infected, Eastern Health officials say the risk is extremely remote.
As an additional precaution, Eastern Health workers are currently measuring the amount of disinfectant used in the cleaning cycles and will be replacing the machine as soon as possible.
Roland Butler, Liberal MHA for Port de Grave, says he was glad to hear Eastern Health came forward with the information, but says there should have been more warning and sooner that there was a problem.
“To know that this problem was ongoing since 2007...you would think there would be something to set off signals,” Butler says. “When it comes to the health-care system and equipment that’s being used on a regular basis like this, you would think there would be some back up more or less, another system that would trigger an alarm to go off.
“But here we go again. People will have concerns I’m sure.”
This isn’t the first time there have been issues with the process of scope cleaning at the Carbonear hospital.
In fact, last year’s Auditor General’s report looked at infections acquired by patients in hospitals, which mentioned an incident at the Conception Bay North hospital under the previous health board.
At the time, Noseworthy wrote: “government does not know either the number of hospital-acquired infections or the number of deaths resulting from such infections in the province.”
However, he did cite one example when talking about whether patients were notified of their possible exposure. In that case, an improperly cleaned gastrointestinal video scope had been used on 72 individuals in Carbonear under the former Avalon Health Care Institutions Board.
In its response to Noseworthy’s findings, the Department of Health said it would be addressing the issues.
Meanwhile, Fay Matthews says Eastern Health won’t be contacting any of the 2,900 people who would have had a test with the scope.
Rather, Eastern Health has set up an inquiry line and is asking patients who may have questions to call toll free, 1-888945-6558, Monday to Friday, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Patients may also follow up with their family physicians in the region, who have been notified along with the other Regional Health Authorities.
A piece of cleaning equipment at this hospital has been discovered to be only using about one quarter of the disinfectant it was supposed to. The alarm, which is supposed to alert technologists the machine is malfunctioning, didn’t go off.
Fay Matthews, chief operating officer of the rural Avalon division of Eastern Health, tells reporters about an alarm malfunction on a scope cleaning machine at the Carbonear General Hospital.