Improper sterilization of surgical equipment at Seattle Children’s Hospital has put tens of thousands of children at risk of accidental HIV infection. Officials from the Bellevue Clinic and Surgery Center say they are now offering free blood tests to roughly 12,000 families after it was determined that many or all of them could have been infected with HIV and other sexually-transmitted diseases via filthy medical instruments.
Faculty at the clinic reportedly failed to follow proper sterilization protocols, leaving scalpels, clamps and other surgical tools teeming with potentially deadly diseases. These safety failures went on for the entire five years that the clinic has been open, according to reports, exposing tens of thousands of patients to all sorts of bacteria and viruses.
“The risk to patients is extremely low; however, we don’t know the exact risk to each patient,” reads a duplicitous statement issued by the hospital. “As a result, some patients who had a surgical procedure at Bellevue Clinic may need to be tested for hepatitis B and C, as well as HIV.”
Hospital authorities have gone to painstaking lengths to reassure patients who have visited the clinic within the past five years that they are probably fine and didn’t contract a disease. However, not everyone is buying this, including a former Bellevue Clinic patient by the name of Yvonne McPherson who told KIRO-TV that she has already made an appointment for her son to see a doctor.
“This should not be something that happens at Children’s Hospital,” she stated. “It’s very scary.”
FDA: Even when the best sanitation protocols are followed, patients can still contract deadly superbugs from contaminated equipment
Another concern is the possibility that patients were inadvertently infected with deadly “superbugs.” The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued a warning for hospitals to use extra caution when disinfecting surgical equipment, noting that difficult-to-sanitize tools such as endoscopes are hot spots for bacteria such as the infamous carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae.
Duodenoscopes are used on as many as 500,000 patients annually to treat gallstones and certain types of cancer, but not all medical facilities know how to properly clean them to avoid spreading infection. In fact, the FDA says that current sanitation methods, even at their most rigorous, aren’t 100 percent effective and may not eliminate the risk entirely. This is why the agency is working towards better solutions.
As far as the situation at Seattle Children’s Hospital goes, officials say the equipment in question, which the facility won’t specifically identify, was still steam-cleaned at a high enough temperature to kill HIV/AIDS and other viruses. Officials also say it’s unlikely that the equipment even had these viruses on it to begin with, which is why they’ve designated the risk as “very low.”
As of September 1, about 2,100 families had contacted the hospital for screenings, and 300 patients had been tested. Seattle Children’s Hospital claims it has identified three false positives and isn’t aware of any actual HIV/AIDS infections that have occurred as a result of the contaminated equipment.
“If there is any question about whether a result is a false positive, we do additional testing and collect additional clinical information to verify,” the hospital wrote in a statement. “When we test a large population that has a very low risk for the condition (such as the patient population seen at Bellevue Clinic), false positives are more common.”
Current and former patients of the Bellevue Clinic are encouraged to call the following toll-free number to make an appointment for a free screening: 1-855-855-8460.
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