Two things are true of hospitals: they are full of sick people and they are full of people who are vulnerable to infections. This is one of the reasons why using properly sterilized equipment is of paramount importance in hospital settings. When hospitals fail to properly sterilize equipment, the result can be personal injury or even wrongful death. While it is a shame when this sort of lapse happens at any sort of hospital, it is most horrifying when it happens at a VA hospital tasked with treating the men and women who have already put their lives on the line for our country. Unfortunately, this does happen.
VA Hospital Uses Dirty Scissors on a Patient
News Station WANE reports that a VA Hospital in Fort Wayne treated a patient with dirty scissors and gauze. The patient is a woman named Valerie Stauffer who served in the Marine Corps from 1996 to 2000. She went to the hospital’s outpatient surgical clinic for a checkup in early April. She suffers from an autoimmune disease that requires her to use a feeding tube that had to be checked.
When Stauffer was led into an exam room, she noticed that there was still an open suture removal tray on the table. Being the era of cell phones, she and her husband took a picture of the tray which shows that the tray actually contained stitches that had been removed from a prior patient. A doctor then came in to the room to check Stauffer’s wound associated with the tube. When the doctor went to re-bandage the wound, he reached for those same previously used instruments.
Stauffer told WANE, “He took [the gauze] out of the tray and the scissors out of the tray. One of the sutures had fallen off out of the tray and fallen on his jacket and he brushed it off. I was like, ‘You’re not really going to use that on me, are you? Because, that’s somebody else’s.’ He’s like, ‘Oh, no. That’s clean.’…I just kind of froze and he cut the gauze with the dirty scissors and proceeded to put it around my J-tube where it touches my stoma that goes right into my intestinal tract.” Stauffer immediately took the gauze off and told a different staff member what had happened.
The hospital took actions the same day of this incident to prevent this sort of error from happening again. The doctor responsible was placed on administrative leave and the hospital has provided follow up care to Stauffer including blood work to be sure that she did not suffer an infection as a result of the error.
Hospital Infections are Common
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention track the number of healthcare-associated infections that happen in acute care hospitals each year. In 2011 alone such infections were responsible for an estimated 157,500 cases of pneumonia, 123,100 cases of gastrointestinal illness, 93,300 urinary tract infections, 71,900 primary bloodstream infections, 157,500 surgical site infections from inpatient surgeries, and 118,500 other infections. Any one of these infections can be deadly. This is particularly the case when you are dealing with immune compromised people like many of the people who have found themselves in the hospital to begin with.
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