hospital failed to disinfect scopes used in colonoscopies

A lawsuit filed last week against an Oregon hospital claims damages on behalf of a patient who received a colonoscopy with a scope that was not fully disinfected.

According to the medical malpractice suit against St. Charles Medical Center-Bend, the plaintiff received a colonoscopy last September with a scope that had previously been used on four other patients without being properly disinfected.

The hospital has already acknowledged that its own procedures for disinfecting the scope were not followed due to a “programming error.”

As a result of the hospital’s admitted error, the patient may have been exposed to serious and potentially deadly diseases, including HIV. She will now have to undergo the cost and stress of multiple rounds of testing to find out if her life has been forever changed due to the hospital’s failure to follow standard procedures.

The plaintiff is asking for $20,000 to cover medical expenses and an additional $250,000 for the emotional distress associated with this horrific event.

Hospital Admits Errors, But Claims Patients at “Low Risk”

In a statement to the news media, the hospital’s CEO admitted that the hospital had a six-step cleaning process for the colonoscopes, and that one of the steps was not carried out at all times last year. A total of eighteen patients were notified by the hospital last October that they may have received colonoscopies with inadequately disinfected equipment.

While the hospital’s CEO claims that, “based on our physicians, these patients are at extremely low risk for infection,” the plaintiff’s attorney pointed out that that the colonoscopy did happen with a dirty colonoscope and that the assertion regarding low risk is “of no comfort to our client.”

Interestingly, a study conducted last year pointed out that all hospitals in the state of Oregon except St. Charles in Bend and Redmond were using a surgical checklist recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).

St. Charles Medical Center-Bend is now working to implement the checklist, according to the CEO. Unfortunately, that change will come too late for those patients whose health may already have been put at risk.

Source: “St. Charles: Colonoscope Not Fully Sanitized” 1/10/2011

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