So I'm minding my own affairs, reading the online version of the Raleigh News & Observer.
I came across this article about Duke University Health System. It caught my eye because my good friend Amanda is an RN at Duke. The article had nothing to do with her or her ward, but I thought I would read up about the goings on over there.
Turns out, they fucked up really bad, and have come forward to apologize for it. In a nutshell, what happened is that some maintenence folks were draining hydraulic fluid out of some elevators as part of routine elevator maintenence stuff. The fluid was drained into some empty detergent barrels, and were presumably set aside for disposal. Somehow, this fluid was recirculated as "cleaning agent", and lots of surgical tools were "sterilized" using said elevator juice. Some 3,800 patients at two hospitals were operated upon using the tainted equipment.
They've come forward to apologize, and apparently they are protected from litigation. North Carolina has recently joined many other states in enacting a mea culpa law that states that as long as they admit fault, AND apologize, people cannot come out of the woodwork to sue. If they have legitimate health issue stemming from this aggregious act of negligence, then they can sue. I can understand the logic, which is to prevent silly litigation. However, there has to be some provision for a case like this.
This part of the article actually made me laugh:
One study confirmed that instruments were clean of viruses, bacteria or fungi in spite of the hydraulic fluid on them, easing concerns about infections. A second study, which Duke commissioned from RTI International in Research Triangle Park, analyzed the chemical composition of the used hydraulic fluid and determined how much was left on instruments. RTI reported that about 1/2000th of a drop of fluid coated the instruments -- an amount so small that Duke has argued it was harmless.
James A. Bond, a toxicologist and editor of the journal Chemico-Biological Interactions, reviewed RTI's full report and said the amount of fluid on the instruments is important because risk depends on the dose. The smaller the amount of fluid, Bond said, the smaller the risk to patients.
But he notes that, despite RTI's findings, there is no way to know exactly how much hydraulic fluid came off into patients' bodies. Further, if fluid did come off, there's no way to know how much each patient absorbed.
Here's my whole thing. Agent 007 doesn't think that anyone should be alarmed. "Oh, c'mon. It's just a few drops. You'll get over it". I'm not as qualified to comment on the toxicoligy of it, but I would loudly scream that any amount at all, whether it's one drop or one gallon or 1/2000th of a drop, is WAY too much hydrolic fluid to wash surgical equipment with. He seems to be taking the "It's not that bad" route instead of the "Wow! That's really fucked up" route.