QEII sterilization issue update

Sterilization Photo

Nova Scotia Health Authority is working with its procurement agent to replace surgical equipment sterilizers at the QEII Health Sciences Centre through the funding support of the Department of Health and Wellness.

Preliminary reports indicate that corroded components of existing sterilizers may be the cause of debris and staining on surgical kits. The issue has forced the postponement of non-emergency surgeries at the QEII daily since April 20.

The Department of Health and Wellness and Nova Scotia Health Authority decided Wednesday to move forward with replacement of the sterilizers.

The existing sterilizers are all more than 15 years old.

“We are very thankful for this support from the Department of Health and Wellness,” said Janet Knox, President and CEO of Nova Scotia Health Authority. “The replacement of these units will help Nova Scotia Health Authority ensure the safe, reliable access to the surgeries and procedures our patients need and expect.”

The procurement and placement of these sterilizers will take several weeks. Exact timelines will become clearer as we move through the procurement process.

In the meantime, Nova Scotia Health Authority will continue to provide emergency surgeries and some scheduled surgeries. Facilities from across the health authority as well as the IWK Health Centre that have not been affected by the issue are providing sterilized surgical equipment.

The QEII is now performing more than 75 per cent of its normally scheduled surgeries daily, an increase from 25 per cent last week.  The QEII continue to work to increase capacity as it awaits the new sterilizers.

Surgeons from all disciplines are working together to determine which surgeries are the most urgent and need to go ahead immediately. Patients who must have their surgeries postponed will be called by their surgeon as soon as possible. Those travelling to Halifax are encouraged to call their physician’s office to ensure their procedure is continuing.

Patients whose surgeries were postponed will be rescheduled on a priority basis, with the most urgent cases being seen first.

“Patient safety is our main priority as we navigate this issue. We understand the difficulty, concern and worry that cancelling surgeries causes our patients and their families. We apologize for this,” said Knox.

Nova Scotia Health Authority will continue to work to ensure as many of these surgeries as possible are completed, while at the same time ensuring our patients are treated as safely as possible.

Black debris composition

Nova Scotia Health Authority is now able to confirm the composition of black debris that has formed on some sterilized surgical trays at the QEII Health Sciences Centre, Halifax Infirmary site.

Testing of the debris shows it is composed of chromium, copper, iron, zinc and nickel. The material has been sent to a local toxicologist to determine whether the substance is toxic.

As well, an expert supplied by sterilizer equipment provider, Steris has provided a draft report based on his investigation of sterilizers at the QEII.  NSHA clinical and administrative teams are reviewing the information, which will inform our plans moving forward.

Steris is testing water sources that feed into the sterilizers. Those results are not yet available.