Medical malpractice is never acceptable, but it is particularly disturbing when the victims are children. While child patients are much more resilient than their adult counterparts in many ways, young children often have not fully developed their immune systems so they can be much more susceptible to serious hospital infections. These infections can be spread by failures to properly sterilize or clean equipment properly. When hospitals fail to follow proper procedures, large scale outbreaks become possible and deadly diseases can be spread to vulnerable patients.
Pediatric Patients Potentially Exposed to Pathogens at Seattle Children’s Hospital
Outpatient Surgery Magazine reports that up to 12,000 pediatric patients at Seattle Children’s Hospital may have been exposed to bloodborne pathogens since 2010. The hospital reports that it has learned that its surgical center has been reprocessing equipment incorrectly. The problem came to light when someone at the surgical center discovered debris on some instruments that should have been clean. While the instruments had been properly sterilized, they had not been washed correctly. As a result all of the surgical center’s patients are being warned to be tested for hepatitis B and C as well as being tested for HIV.
According to a report by the Seattle Times the risk of infection is low because these disease are relatively uncommon in the children who are treated at the center, but that infection is possible. The hospital does not know how long this problem has existed, but it may have existed since the surgical center opened in 2010. Fortunately because all of the other proper cleaning and sterilization procedures appear to have been followed, the risk of infection is even less likely and bloodborne disease are the only real concern. The fortunate thing is that the error was finally caught before even more children could be exposed to the danger. The hospital reports that the error has been fixed.
Failures to Properly Clean and Sterilize Equipment Can be Deadly
While so far there have not been any infections reported related to the problem in Seattle, previous failures to properly clean and sterilize equipment have had serious consequences. For example, The Washington Post reported in 2009 on a Tennessee VA hospital’s failure to properly sterilize equipment used in colonoscopies. After those failures eight patients tested positive for HIV, 12 tested positive for hepatitis B, and 37 tested positive for hepatitis C. Should any of the children who were treated at the Seattle hospital wind up sick as a result of the dirty instruments, they may be able to argue that the hospital breached a duty to them when it did not use properly cleaned instruments.
The hospital has not released detailed information as to exactly what was not done properly or why it was not done properly, so it is impossible to say definitively what, if any, claims any children who become ill may have.
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