Procedures moved from Zablocki following complaint by employee about sterilization
Dec. 14, 2010 | (45) Comments
The Zablocki Veterans Affairs Medical Center [in Milwaukee] stopped doing medical procedures more than a week ago after an employee raised concerns about the sterilization of medical equipment.
VA officials would not provide details on the concerns that prompted the decision. But they stressed that the move on Dec. 6 was precautionary.
"There was not gross deviation from the procedures that we've identified," said Michael Erdmann, the chief of staff at the medical center and a professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin. "But because we wanted to err on the side of patient safety, we made the very difficult decision to stand down everything."
About 20 patients have had surgeries or procedures done at Froedtert Hospital or other hospitals since Dec. 6.
The surgeons and other doctors at the VA generally also work at Froedtert Hospital. Carolyn Bellin, a spokeswoman for Froedtert, said the referrals have not caused any problems.
"We're glad to help out," she said.
The Zablocki VA and its clinics treat about 55,000 veterans a year, and the medical center generally has about 140 patients in its acute care unit.
The medical center is beginning to perform some procedures but doesn't expect its operating rooms to reopen until next week.
The medical center is sterilizing and processing thousands of pieces of equipment, a task that takes a minimum of three to four hours for the simplest device or tool. Each piece of equipment has to be inspected, cleaned and repackaged.
More than 400 types of equipment are reprocessed at the medical center, ranging from tools used for dental procedures to endoscopy scopes to a device for placing an artificial heart valve. Each has a specific procedure, and some run for pages.
"Every indication right now is we were following the procedures," said Gary Kunich, a VA spokesman.
The VA department that sterilizes and reprocesses medical equipment has gone through 16 inspections, some for just specific equipment, by hospital staff and the national VA system since July, Kunich said.
Kunich and Erdmann would not disclose the question raised about the hospital's procedures. But Erdmann acknowledged it was a drastic step.
"It took courage," he said. "But when you believe in patient safety and quality of care, it was the only decision to make."