Dirty Medical Instruments a Rising Threat

Poorly trained workers don't know how to clean them: Center for Public Integrity
By Dustin Lushing,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 25, 2012 7:01 AM CST

(Newser) – A disturbing and dangerous trend is growing in hospitals, according to a report from the Center of Public Integrity: the use of dirty instruments leading to serious infections. The problem is showing up with "alarming regularity" and could be linked to the difficulty in cleaning modern surgical tools and the overloaded, low-paid workers responsible for sterilizing them. Only New Jersey requires that such workers be certified.

The advance of "minimally invasive" procedures has led to the production of flexible instruments made of plastic and other polymers, which require laborious and complex washing, explains the report. Workers paid as little as $8.50-an-hour and stationed in hot basements are faced with piles of instruments to clean in short periods of time. Maybe the most egregious example: Between 2002 and 2009, about 10,000 veterans received endoscopies or colonoscopies with contaminated tools, infecting some of the vets with HIV, hepatitis C, and hepatitis B. Lawsuits are in the works, with more to follow. Read the full report here. (Read more hospitals stories.)

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