San Diego

Naval Medical Center San Diego Links Sterilization Discrepancy to Bacteria Found in Instrument Washer's Water Supply

The Naval Medical Center San Diego confirmed that bacteria was found during water tests at one of its Sterilization Processing sites where surgical instruments are cleaned.

The discovery led to the shutdown of the site, which caused a shortage in available surgical instruments forcing the hospital to delay roughly 100 elected surgeries at the site.

The hospital said Monday that the Director of Surgical Services was first made aware of a "discrepancy" in the instrument sterilization process on Feb. 28. The director confirmed Tuesday that the "discrepancy" was the presence of bacteria in the pre-rinse cycle water supply of an automated washer.

Officials say the bacteria wasn't impacting the sterilization cycle, which they believe would've have killed any bacteria before it reached a patient in surgery.

Routine testing by the Navy’s contracted water quality testing provider revealed the automated washer was “out of standards," according to Alvarez.

The closure of the sterilization site led to a shortage 

Hospital staff members are identifying patients who visited the hospital between Jan. 1 and Feb. 28 in an effort to notify them of the concern and to help track and monitor any possible infections. The Navy says so far there is no evidence of any contamination with the instruments and no reports of any infections.

The director of surgery told NBC 7 that impacted patients should feel confident they had a safe and sterile surgery.

According to follow up tests, extensive flushing of the water line to the pre-wash machine seems to have fixed the problem. Officials say it will be at least two more weeks before they're ready to put the machine it back online.

Alvarez said that emergent and urgent cases continue on site with instruments cleaned off site.

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