From the Associated Press, via the Charlotte Observer, came the story that a mix-up at Duke Health Raleigh and Durham Regional hospitals, both run by the Duke University Health System, caused surgical instruments used for operations on 3800 patients to be "disinfected" by immersion in hydraulic fluid drained from a hospital elevator system, rather than detergent.
According to the version reported in the Raleigh News and Observer, operating room staff complained to administration that their instruments were covered with oil. Sometimes, the staff had to wipe down tools because they were too slick to be usable. However, according to a Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) report, "Administrative staff failed to heed the multiple complaints of staff sterilizing and using the instruments, thus delaying the discovery of the error and needlessly exposing patients to these instruments over a longer time period." So far, Duke has refused to reveal results of analyses of the content of the used hydraulic fluid. Duke officials declined interviews, but insisted that the surgical infection rate has not increased since the mix-up. A patient who suffered various maladies after surgery with the oily instruments requested information about the exposure from Duke, but received a letter from its risk-management department stating, they were "not in a position to respond at this time."
Not such slick managerial work on this one... Sorry, I couldn't help making these terrible puns, but sometimes we try to laugh to keep from crying. This story is so bizarre that it sounds like an urban legend. What kind of hospital manager would ignore repeated reports that surgical instruments came out of the sterilizer coated with oil? But with 422 related posts on Google News by June 14, this story appears all too real.
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