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Sterilization troubles at Stanton
Equipment troubles limit surgery capacity; not linked to infections, says CEO

Tim Edwards
Northern News Services
Published Tuesday, February 15, 2011

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - Only emergency surgeries are being performed at Stanton Territorial Hospital while the hospital awaits repairs to two of the three machines used to sterilize medical equipment, says CEO Kay Lewis.

NNSL photo/graphic

Kay Lewis: "Absolutely nothing has been released for use that does not meet all of the sterilization standards." - NNSL file photo

The hospital is waiting on parts and a new filtration system to be installed, all of which Lewis expects to be in place by the end of the week, at which time elective surgeries surgery which does not require immediate operation are expected to resume.

Out of 1,758 surgeries last year, 404 were considered an emergency.

Lewis said the limits on surgeries have been in place since Jan. 1, and major overhauls on the sterilization machines were completed two weeks ago, after the machines delivered "wet loads," meaning medical equipment was still wet coming out of the machine not necessarily contaminated, but at risk of picking up germs due to the moisture.

"Absolutely nothing has been released for use that does not meet all of the sterilization standards," said Lewis, adding that the hospital always tries to root out the cause of infections that arise after surgeries. There have been no links found between the equipment troubles and patient infections, said Lewis.

"We don't release anything that (doesn't meet standards) but if it happened to be during a period that we were having some issues, we're trying to track that," she said. "We track every surgery all the way through."

She also stated the hospital has been consistent, at least within the national average of occurrences of post-surgical infections. The national average is between three and four per cent, she said. From 2006 to 2009, the yearly rates at Stanton have been in the order of 2.1, 2.2, 1, and 3.3 per cent, she said.

She noted that much of the jump in 2009 was due to "dirty cases" when patients came to the hospital with existing infections. Numbers for last year were not yet compiled, said Lewis.

Kam Lake MLA Dave Ramsay asked Health Minister Sandy Lee about the sterilization troubles on Monday afternoon in the legislative assembly, and if they have resulted in post-surgical infections.

Lee said hospital staff is on top of the situation and reiterated that nothing used in the operating room falls below standards set by the Canadian Standards Association.

"While we are working to address this issue we should not be causing undue alarm," said Lee.

The machines were installed in 2006, and have an expected lifespan of 12 years, according to Lewis.

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