‘Lack of respect’ for sterile practice, association says

Patients who have been exposed to unsafe practices in Dunedin Hospital may feel they have been placed at risk and they should have been told, the New Zealand Sterile Services Association (NZSSA) says.

The professional body issued a statement yesterday backing up Public Service Association concerns about sterilisation practices at Dunedin Hospital.

This week the Southern District Health Board admitted gynaecological ring pessaries designed for single use had been used multiple times.

The practice has now been stopped. 

NZSSA president Shelagh Thomas said the DHB had failed to inform women the procedure involved the use of a reprocessed single-use device.

"These women will feel that they have received below-standard service, and may consider that they have been placed at unnecessary risk when they read the article.''

The PSA's concerns include the corroded state of some surgical equipment manufactured in-house.

Ms Thomas said the use of substandard surgical equipment was an issue for other health boards, too.

"The association regularly hears from members about surgeons bringing their home-made or local store-bought equipment into the hospital and asking that it be processed for use on patients.‘‘Such equipment can contain rust and workshop oil deposits.

"We also hear of the lack of respect for sterile technicians and their specialised knowledge both from the employer and the medical and nursing staff.

"Fortunately, in some areas of NZ, the lot of the sterile technician is improving.

"However, there is still a long way to go,'' Ms Thomas said.

Health board director of quality Tina Gilbertson, in a statement last night, said gynaecological pessaries had been safely reprocessed for decades but "at some point'' were declared single-use by the manufacturing company and this went "unrecognised'' for some time.

The board does not believe the practice exposed women to significant risk of infection.

The use of hospital-manufactured surgical equipment is being phased out and the last item will be removed next month.

When contacted, a Ministry of Health spokesmansaid the ministry would respond on Monday.


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