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Widespread Hospital Infection from Dirty Surgical Tools

Scranton, PA, March 30, 2012 — Pennsylvania medical malpractice lawyer Marion Munley called attention today to an investigative report indicating that hospital administrators and others in the medical field know that dirty surgical instruments are causing many dangerous infections in hospital patients.

A 4,200-word investigative report by the Centers for Public Integrity says hospital managers, surgical equipment manufacturers, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have been grappling with growing recognition that reusable medical devices are not being cleaned properly between procedures.

“The Centers for Public Integrity report about contaminated surgical instruments implicates hospitals, device manufacturers and oversight agencies in this alarming scandal,” said Munley of Munley, Munley & Cartwright, P.C., a Scranton-based Pennsylvania personal injury firm.

“Not only could hospitals be guilty of negligence in how they clean surgical instruments, but this investigation shows that the instruments themselves can be designed in a manner that means they cannot be sterilized properly,” Munley said.

“Further, the FDA may be failing in its oversight duties. The breadth of problems identified in this investigation is startling and infuriating.”

The report claims that “Filthy, dangerous medical implements have been showing up in hospitals and outpatient surgery centers with alarming regularity.”

Speaking at a conference last summer, a risk management clinical engineer from the University of Michigan Health System said their examination of 350 devices commonly used to suction fluids during surgery found that all of them, despite having been cleaned, “contained blood, bone, tissue, even rust,” according to the CPI report.

Many new, high-tech surgical devices are made with modern polymers that melt at high temperatures. That means they cannot be mechanically sterilized, the report says.

Hospitals are left to rely on “poorly paid hospital employees who clean and sterilize devices between procedures, often under pressure from nurses and surgeons who need the devices quickly for the next operation,” the CPI says.

The report describes one complaint to the FDA about a surgical device that could not be cleaned properly. The federal agency asked the device’s manufacturer to investigate. The FDA then refused to release the results of the manufacturer’s investigation.

Munley, whose firm recovers compensation for victims of medical malpractice and flawed medical products, explained that hospital infection can lead to additional surgery and the heavy use of additional medications.

Infections are often masked by medical steroids and other drugs. If they are not discovered, hospital patients could die, Munley added.

“Hospital patients should not be contracting infections,” Munley said. “If they do, it is likely because of surgical negligence or the hospital’s negligence or, as this report indicates, because of faulty medical device design.

“Anyone who has a family member heading into surgery needs to be mindful of the indications of post-operative infection,” she said. “And anyone who has lost a family member after surgery should seek out the medical examiner’s report and look for an indication of infection.”

Munley said an attorney can help protect the rights of those who have been harmed by an infection contracted in a hospital or surgical center.

“It’s important work that we are dedicated to carrying out,” Munley said.

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