Sterilization concerns at Seattle Children’s


August 26, 2015

Some patients at Seattle Children’s Hospital Bellevue Clinic may need testing for hepatitis B and C and HIV after the discovery of improperly sterilized equipment

The hospital said Wednesday that they recently discovered that required procedures for cleaning and sterilizing surgical instruments at Seattle Children’s Bellevue Clinic and Surgery Center were not always followed.

The hospital says the risk to patients is extremely low, but “we don’t know the exact risk to each patient. We are contacting patients and offering a free blood test to those who we think may have been affected. ”

“Our patients’ safety is our top priority and we are very sorry that this happened. We are investigating exactly how this failure occurred and expect the investigation to be complete this week,” the hospital said in a news release.

At a news conference, Dr. Mark Del Beccaro, Seattle Children’s Chief Medical Officer, said the patients involved are all those who have had day surgery and gone home.

“These are lower risk procedures with lower risk equipment,” he said.

Anna Rollins said her four-year-old son Rylan was a day surgery patient at the Bellevue clinic in 2013. While the procedure and the care was fine, she is now concerned not knowing whether her son is affected.

“Not knowing whether or not my son is in the clear 100%,” said Rollins. “I think it’s potentially a monumental thing.”

Rollins said she planned to contact Rylan’s pediatrician and get him tested.

“I’m absolutely going to go the full length to ensure my son’s health is five stars,” she said.

The hospital said it is also working with Public Health – Seattle & King County, the Washington State Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control to further protect the health and safety of their patients.

According to Seattle Children’s, the problem was found after a vendor was looking at sterilized surgical equipment. When that sterilized set went back to be sterilized again, the clinic found the problem.

“It was our staff that noticed the subtle sign of a problem, and then we investigated further from there,” said Dr. Danielle Zerr, Seattle Children’s Division Chief of Pediatric Infectious Disease.

The hospital said the equipment was sterilized at the appropriate temperature and for the appropriate amount of time, but debris was found on the medical instrument, and the hospital isn’t sure exactly how this happened.

“What we found is that the instruments were going through these cleaning and sterilization processes, but they weren’t being carried out exactly as recommended,” Zerr said.

Seattle Children’s said they have gone back and reprocessed their procedures so that all children going into surgery at Bellevue are safe, and they plan to continue investigating to find the root of this problem.

“We want to be the best and the safest children’s hospital in the country, and the only way you do that is when you notice there is an issue, be open about it, notify, learn from it, and make sure that it doesn’t happen again,” said Seattle Children’s CEO Dr. Jeff Sperring.

If parents have questions, Children’s has set up a toll free hotline number 1-855-855-8460.

KING 5’s Jesse Knutson, John Langeler and Susan Wyatt contributed to this report.