Thirty-one elective surgeries have been cancelled at Stanton Territorial Hospital after problems with equipment cleaning were discovered, a spokesperson with the NWT Health and Social Service Authority (NTHSSA) said on Tuesday.
The cancelled procedures cover the period of July 23 to July 31, said spokesperson David Maguire.
“We continue to evaluate each surgery scheduled and are cancelling elective surgeries that can be rescheduled at a later date,” he said. “We are cancelling most joint-replacement surgeries at this time. Emergency surgeries will still go forward.”
The pause in procedures follows the discovery of problems with sterilization services as the NTHSSA said in a news release on Friday night.
On July 22, “wet packs” were noticed during sterilization processes, an occurrence where moisture is visible after medical instruments to be used in surgical procedures are sterilized using steam and heat.
Another problem occurred with some of the stored sterile supplies being contaminated with water leaks, and an investigation into the cause is ongoing.
Some elective surgeries that are scheduled to happen immediately will proceed, depending on the availability of equipment and supplies. Patients who have travelled to Yellowknife are being prioritized.
Urgent but non-emergency surgeries might be deferred to other facilities within the NWT or to Alberta. Patient notification for cancellations is ongoing.
Once the issue is resolved, elective surgeries will resume and cancelled procedures will be rescheduled as high-priority.
Maguire outlined several actions the NTHSSA is taking to address the situation.
“We have put together a multidisciplinary team including Stanton leadership, medical device reprocessing, surgical services, clinical leads, and other support services. This team has been meeting twice daily to manage the situation and work towards a solution,” he said.
Authorities are working with the sterilization equipment supplier to bring a service expert to Yellowknife; reaching out to other health authorities and hospitals to discuss the issue with other medical device reprocessing experts to find a solution; and working with facilities manager Dexterra to examine and fix leaks.
They are also working with the Hay River Health and Social Services Authority to see if Stanton could use its sterilization units. In addition, test sterilization cycles are being run at Stanton to check the results of reducing the volume of equipment in each load or changing the type of wraps or trays that are used.
Maguire pointed out that sterilization equipment is put through and passes other tests that measure the effectiveness of sterilization
“The issue is with the water in the trays at the end of the cycle preventing the sterilized equipment from being stored for future use,” he said.