Detroit Medical Center Hospitals Used Dirty, Broken Medical Tools For Years : Report

A new report warns of serious problems at some Detroit hospitals, which may have used dirty and unsanitized tools used during surgical procedures for years, often involving young children. 

The Detroit News reports that it has received more than 200 pages of internal documents from the Midtown hospitals of the Detroit Medical Center highlighting problems with dirty, missing and sometimes broken medical instruments. The complaints date back 11 years, and have raised questions among doctors who work there about the safety of their patients.

The reports are disturbing. In one incident from January 2015, the Detroit News reports that a 7-month old girl was undergoing open heart surgery when the procedure had to be stopped because a tube connected to a bypass machine was blocked with a blood clot from a previous patient. In other incidents, medical professionals discovered they were using improperly sterilized tools during brain surgery on a child.

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Unsterilized surgical tools can cause hospital acquired infections, and broken tools can lead to surgical complications, both of which can be life-threatening. In addition, discovery of such tools has led to delays in surgery and patients requiring additional anesthesia.

In a June 2014 email, former Children’s Hospital President, Larry Gold, wrote to the chief nursing officer that some ophthalmologists were so concerned about the problem with instrument sterilization, known as Central Sterile Processing (CSP), that they were considering going to other hospitals to conduct their surgeries.

“I’m really at wits end on this CSP issue,” he wrote. “As you can see from the emails below, there are now members of the Ophthalmology group who are so fed up and are at least threatening to consider alternative centers to do their surgery.”

Gold wrote that the surgeons were losing patience.

“It has been a very long time for this level dysfunction to go on and the surgeons are extremely frustrated,” he wrote.

Instruments for the Detroit Medical Center, which consists of Children’s Hospital, Detroit Receiving, Harper University, Hutzel Women’s Hospital and DMC Heart hospital, are all conducted by the Central Sterile Processing Department in the basement of Receiving Hospital. In one 17-month period, Children’s Hospital alone reported 186 complaints about surgical instruments being dirty or missing, or having to use incomplete surgical tool sets.

Detroit Medical Center reportedly signed a contract in late May with Unity HealthTrust in Birmingham, Alabama, to take over management of its CSP department. According to the Detroit News, the deal came the very next day after the paper inquired about the problem. However, it reports that no one lost their job.

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