Hospital suggests HIV tests to 27 patients after sterilization error

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by KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on December 21, 2013 at 11:55 AM

Updated Sunday, Dec 22 at 1:20 PM

Swedish Medical Center continues to investigate why staff did not properly sterilize a piece of ultrasound equipment, potentially compromising the health of 27 patients.
 
The unsterilized equipment was used between September 19 and December 10.
 
"I was so enraged. I was like, 'Oh my God,'" one patient said.
 
He spoke to KING 5 on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitive topic and how it might affect his job. After a recent visit to the hospital, he received a phone call and letter notifying him that equipment used during the surgical procedure may put him at risk for infectious disease. 
 
Immediately, he returned to Swedish Medical Center for a blood test to check for HIV and Hepatitis B and C. 
 
"I cannot tell you how angry I was," he explained. "It was terrible."
 
Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Vassall calls the mistake a "human error," one they're still investigating. Of the four decontamination steps taken, staff missed the last one.
 
The hospital estimates the possibility of infection is less than one in a million.
 
"Certainly I'm upset and certainly I can understand why the patients would be upset," Dr. Vassall said.  "We want to do everything right for our patients all the time, every time. Unfortunately, in this case, we didn't."
 
Swedish Health Services has checked other facilities that perform the same procedure to ensure the same mistake doesn't happen. 
 
They're advising all 27 patients affected to undergo an immediate blood test, then a second one in three months.
 
The patient who spoke to KING 5 is only somewhat calmed by the notification that the risk of infection is low.
 
"You can say the odds are low but it's either yes or no for me," he said.
 
Even scarier, he says, because his health is already compromised. The  procedure in question was a procedure to treat his cancer. After the hospital sent him a message, he now has a message for them.
 
"I hope you never go through what I have to go through," he said. "I hope you never have to wait three months to see if the place that was supposed to help you, hurt you."
 

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