Some elective surgeries at Stanton Territorial Hospital have been suspended or cancelled after problems with equipment cleaning were discovered.
The pause in what the NWT Health and Social Service Authority (NTHSSA) called a “small number of elective surgeries” began on Thursday, July 23 after the problems with sterilization services started the day before, the NTHSSA said in a news release Friday night.
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.
On Wednesday, “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.
When “wet packs” of items are found during sterilization process safety checks they’re rejected by medical device reprocessing specialists and are put back into the sterilization queue.
“Because of this rigorous process, we are confident that this issue was flagged immediately and that no improperly sterilized equipment was used on patients,” the NTHSSA said.
Another problem occurred with some of the stored sterile supplies being contaminated with water leaks, and an investigation into the cause is ongoing.
Supplies of sterilized equipment are available that were put through the sterilization process before the problems began and the hospital is conserving them for emergency surgery capacity.
“Stanton is working with partners to determine the root cause of the issue. 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.
“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.”
The equipment malfunctions have reduced the capacity for surgical services at the hospital.