Sterilization services at Stanton Territorial Hospital have been impacted by equipment malfunctions since Wednesday July 22nd. It was noted by hospital staff that the sterilization equipment at Stanton was outputting what are known as “wet packs”.
Sterilization devices in the hospital use steam and heat to clean medical instruments, equipment, and supplies for use in surgical procedures. In a release, the NTHSSA notes that there are rigorous standards around all processes related to this critical function, one of the checks completed after each sterilization cycle is to examine the trays/packets the items are sterilized in. If there is any visible moisture left after the sterilization process it is considered a “wet pack”.
All wet packs are rejected by the Medical Device Reprocessing Specialists and they are put into the queue to go back through the sterilization units. Because of this process, the NTHSSA is confident that this issue was flagged immediately and that no improperly sterilized equipment was used on patients. It was also noted that continued sterilization device malfunctions have reduced capacity for surgical services at Stanton.
In addition to the sterilizer malfunctions, the NTHSSA mentioned that some of the stored sterile supplies were contaminated with water leaks that occurred alongside the sterilizer issues. The sterile supplies that remain are being conserved to retain emergency surgery capacity. The NTHSSA is also looking at options to sterilize equipment at other facilities in the NWT and has contingency options in place for emergency situations while work to solve the sterilizer issue is ongoing.
As a result of these issues Stanton has started to suspend/cancel a small number of elective surgeries starting Thursday, July 23rd. Some elective surgeries that are scheduled immediately are going forward pending availability of equipment and supplies with patients who have travelled to Yellowknife being prioritized. Urgent but non-emergency surgical procedures may be deferred to other facilities within the NWT or to Alberta if they arise. Patient notification for cancellations is ongoing.
Stanton is working with partners to determine the root cause of the issue. It is mentioned that there are many factors that could affect the sterilization process including the environment within the building itself, the devices and the systems that support them, and the quality of the water being used.
Once the issue is resolved elective surgical procedures will be reinstated; those who are impacted by cancellations will be rescheduled as high-priority.