Four patients are dead, four others infected and at least 1,300 more put at risk for a deadly heart surgery device infections. The problem is allegedly stemming from a device used to heat and cool a patient’s blood during open-heart surgery at WellSpan York Hospital in York, PA.
“We weren’t following [cleaning instructions for the device] to the letter,” admitted Dr. Hal Baker who oversees infection control at the hospital, according to the New York Times. The units were sometimes not cleaned with bleach, added WellSpan spokesperson Brett Marcy in an article at philly.com.
Meanwhile, thousands of patients are wondering whether their infections were caused by the machine, or if they may develop one in the near future. The bacteria tied to the deaths, known as nontuberculous mycobateria or NTM, grows very slowly. Symptoms may take months to appear. York hospital issued notifications to patients they believe to be at risk.
“We’re urging the recipients of the notifications from York Hospital to contact our office immediately,” said Jon Ostroff. “The circumstances of these many incidents make it absolutely imperative that patients safeguard their legal rights.”
More Concerns Over Heart Surgery Device Infections
Concern about infections from similar bacteria arose early as last year when four patients died in South Carolina. Those deaths involved microbes in tap water. The possible sources of the water were identified as being either heater-cooler devices or ice machines in the operating room by Montgomeryville, PA biomedical engineer Lawrence Muscarella in June 2014.
“Why are they retrospectively looking back to identify an outbreak?” Muscarella asked in the Philly.com article.
Two patients died after Muscarella’s written warning – one in August 2014 and the other in March 2015.
ECRI, a company charged with evaluating medical devices, failed to warn hospitals of infection risks linked to the heater-coolers. The company’s executive director for accident and forensics investigation Bruce C. Hansel said, “It just hasn’t come up.”
Infections associated with healthcare are a leading cause of death in hospitals, and surgical site infections are the second most common source of infection, according to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Hospital medical mistakes are the third leading cause of all deaths in the US.
Ostroff Law is preparing to take on those who failed in their duties and injured the still unknown number of harmed patients. WellSpan York Hospital had an obligation to take all reasonable steps to keep the operating room infection free. Non-compliance with the device’s cleaning instructions further implicates them as contributing to these patient’s deaths and injuring possibly thousands more.
”The results of these cases can be very serious to a person’s health,” Ostroff said. ”Not only did Wellspan York Hospital fail to keep its operating room safe, but this hospital’s disregard for the safety of it’s patients played a role in causing this infection. Our firm can pursue justice for these innocent victims.”