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Assessing Ont. patients examined with unsterilized equipment will take months

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

TORONTO (CP) - It could take up to six months to determine the health of 146 patients who received throat and colon examinations with unsterilized equipment at Lakeridge Hospital in nearby Oshawa, the hospital’s chief operating officer said Tuesday.

The risk of anyone getting a blood-borne or other infection from the equipment at the hospital remains "extremely low," added Janice Dusek. Testing for HIV and hepatitis continued Tuesday on the 146 people who underwent examinations with the equipment, which was clean but unsterilized, said Dusek.

"We’re doing a full investigation right now. The risk apparently is extremely low that anything has happened."

While a report was expected to be released sometime Wednesday, the patients would have to be monitored over the next six months to rule out any infection, added Dusek.

Dusek said the patients were examined between Monday and Wednesday last week.

"What we are doing is going on the extreme side, ensuring everyone was called and we are doing everything in our power to make sure they are being tested," said Dusek.

"We are investigating the whole procedure, the whole process."

When asked Tuesday if any of the patients had hepatitis or HIV, Dusek responded that she didn’t know, but added that information was confidential and couldn’t be released anyway.

On Monday, Allison Till, 36, said she had gone to the Oshawa hospital for a routine colonoscopy last week.

She said she came home to an answering-machine message asking her to contact the hospital immediately.

"Are you telling me there’s a chance that it wasn’t sterilized?" Till recalled asking a hospital staff member.

"And she said point blank, ’No, it just was not sterilized.’ "

Scoping equipment is cleaned and disinfected after each use. Last week, the equipment was cleaned with detergent twice, instead of once with a detergent and once with a disinfectant. The cleaning and disinfecting process is automated.

© Copyright 2003 The Canadian Press

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