The issue: Sterilization woes

We say: Enough is enough

Stanton Territorial Hospital is chronically sick.

The new health facility, which opened in May 2019 following a $350-million investment via a public-private partnership, quickly lost its shine as it was plagued by problems. 

Numerous water leaks, sewage backups, mould, drafts, a lack of cleanliness, subpar food, overworked nursing staff, sub-contractors suing for millions, underestimated property taxes and a private partner that filed for bankruptcy before the project was even completed – these are among the numerous headaches that have been attached to the hospital in its short 14 months of operation. 

And let’s not forget the equipment failures, like the CT scanner and sterilization machine that conked out last year.

The malfunctioning sterilization equipment flared up again over the past week, forcing 31 patients to go without elective surgery. That means people who had been waiting for a new hip or a new knee will continue to count the days until they’re able to get relief. 

Sterilization deficiencies also occurred in April 2019, causing more than a dozen scheduled surgeries to be rescheduled at that time. 

Although problems with sterilization equipment predate the new Stanton hospital, it adds to the IV drip of public perception that the facility is not up to par, certainly not providing the return expected on the massive investment.

But the recurring sterilization problems are much more serious than unpalatable food, foul odours and cool drafts. This issue has been cropping up for far too long. Then-health minister Tom Beaulieu addressed delayed joint surgeries in the legislative assembly in February 2012.

“What I do know is that the operating room seems to have resolved all of the sterilization issues and continues to work on the sterilization issues. As I indicated, the hospital is old and they are doing their best to maintain the pH levels at the operating table,” Beaulieu said at the time.

Bob Bromley, then-MLA representing Weledeh, pointed out that the sterilization steam equipment had been faulty for between 13 and 14 months. Approximately 300 surgeries were cancelled during that period. 

Then another 45 operations were called off in April and May of 2017 due to, what else, the sterilization machine breaking down.  

Back to today, the NWT Health and Social Service Authority (NTHSSA) isn’t just sitting idly by. Patients requiring urgent surgery are being re-routed to other medical facilities in the NWT or in Alberta. A team of local medical experts is meeting twice daily to make things better, said NTHSSA spokesperson David Maguire. They’re also aiming to bring a service expert for sterilization equipment to Yellowknife and they’re contacting other hospitals to examine a range of potential solutions.  

But NWT residents aren’t going to settle for a placebo. They want the sterilization issue to be rectified once and for all. 

The NTHSSA initially referred to a “small number” of cancelled surgeries when it revealed the latest issues with the sterilization equipment.

If one adds up all of the delayed surgeries over the years due to this persistent problem, it’s not a small number at all. It continues to grow, and it has to stop.


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