By Gillian Slade on June 8, 2017.
Water-quality issues at Medicine Hat Regional Hospital have been addressed and it has resumed the sterilizing of equipment, Alberta Health Services announced Wednesday.
A residue was discovered May 9 on equipment in the early stages of sterilization. It now appears one of the root causes was particles in the water system, said Katherine Chubbs chief zone officer AHS south zone. The particles did not enter the hospital from the city water main but were present inside the hospital’s water lines.
Filters were installed on all equipment including those that did not have a filter to begin with. Some equipment is designed to perhaps not need a filter but it made sense to install filters as an extra precaution, said Chubbs.
“In my experience … it is an initiative when you have issues in the MDR (Medical Device Reprocessing) that people have tried in terms of coming to a resolution. In my previous experience it was one of the key things that made a big difference,” said Chubbs. “We wanted to see if this was going to be a solution for us, and thankfully it was.”
Last week some of the heavier equipment was still coming through the process with some discolouration as tests continued. That too is now resolved.
“We continued to flush the lines. I think it takes some time for some of those things to get through the system, so the impact of the filters combined with the impact of the flushing over time got less and less and eventually went away,” said Chubbs.
When the MDR in the hospital’s new wing was first gearing up to officially open, flushing took place and all qualifications for those tests were met, said Chubbs. There was no indication of any issue at that stage.
“These things do tend to come up from time to time … that is the reason we have such tight quality control in MDR because you can anticipate these things do happen,” said Chubbs, who applauded the vigilance of MDR staff, and quality control measures to identify this issue in the early stages of the sterilization process.
There is very strict protocol to be followed that involves 10 to 15 quality control stages, said Chubbs. Equipment coming in is first rinsed. It then goes through a refined washing process, followed by a decontamination process with the use of chemicals. It then goes through a sterilization process where the temperature reaches 132 C.
“All along that continuum you are looking at things like the water quality; is there specks in the water, is the water clear,” said Chubbs.
The wrapping of the equipment is then scrutinized for any sign of dampness, which may indicate an issue. All equipment has its own quality control mechanisms built in such as the temperature range, said Chubbs. Each package has a record of certain indicators for biological and chemical levels.
“In this particular instance it was caught right in the very beginning,” said Chubbs.
Sterilization had to be done at other locations in the past few weeks. It was also necessary to postpone 205 elective surgeries. A total of 193 have already been rescheduled with 53 already having taken place. AHS continues to work with surgeons to reschedule the remaining ones.