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Dangerous Healthcare Settings: Poorly Sterilized Equipment

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A recent safety advisory points out continuing problems with improperly disinfected hospital equipment in the United States.

The Joint Commission is a non-profit entity that accredits healthcare facilities in this country. The agency also inspects and surveys hospitals and physician offices to ensure safety and other standards are met. The Commission has the authority to shut down providers who pose a serious risk to their patients through violations in healthcare practices.

In a May 2014 advisory, the Joint Commission reported on inspections conducted throughout the previous year. In 2013, the agency noted increasing problems with healthcare facilities that failed to sterilize equipment properly. Consider the following findings:

  • Threat to life violations are those with immediate, severe consequences for patients. Of the 13 threat to life events noted by inspectors in 2013, seven of them involved improperly sterilized equipment.
  • Of the hospitals inspected, 46 were non-compliant with sterilization and disinfection protocols.
  • Similarly, 47 percent of critical access hospitals were non-compliant and 29 percent of office-based surgeries were non-compliant.

Improperly sterilized equipment leaves vulnerable patients open to pathogens like hepatitis, salmonella, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and other infections.

Healthcare-acquired infections (HAIs) are serious. The incidence of injury and death due to HAIs continues to rise, partly due to the unwitting spread of microbes through non-sterile equipment.

At non-compliant facilities, the Joint Commission made the following observations:

  • Employees discounted the possibility of the spread of infection.
  • Staff were not properly trained or had no access to appropriate guidelines.
  • Sterilization protocols were not made a priority.

If you contract an infection during treatment at a North Carolina hospital and you believe it was due to inadequate or unsanitary conditions at the facility, consult an attorney to explore your options for taking legal action.

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