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Kadlec says risk to patients ‘extremely low’ after sterilization issues

Dr. Kathleen Paranada, a Kadlec infectious disease specialist, stands in a procedure room at a Kadlec clinic in this file photo.
Dr. Kathleen Paranada, a Kadlec infectious disease specialist, stands in a procedure room at a Kadlec clinic in this file photo. Tri-City Herald

Kadlec Clinic is offering blood tests to about 300 patients who could have been affected by inconsistencies in equipment sterilizing processes.

The chances any of the patients contracted an illness because of the inconsistencies are extremely low to negligible, but the free tests are being offered “out of an abundance of caution” and to provide peace of mind, Kadlec officials said in a statement.

Patients who underwent some specific procedures involving scopes, hysteroscopes, endoscopy and re-sterilized instruments at four clinics are being sent a letter offering the blood test, which will screen for illnesses including hepatitis and HIV.

A patient advocacy phone line set up to answer questions is staffed 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays.

The number is 509-942-2531. Information also is available at www.kadlec.org/patienthelp.

The four clinics are Associated Physicians for Women in Richland; South Richland Primary Care; Tri-City Ear, Nose and Throat in Kennewick; and Obstetrics and Gynecology in Prosser.

“Kadlec takes great pride in being a resource for health and wellness in our community. We deeply value the trust our patients place in us, and want them to know our goal is to address their concerns quickly and completely,” said Lane Savitch, CEO of Kadlec Regional Medical Center, in a statement.

Kadlec Clinic, made up of a network of primary care and specialty providers, is a department of the regional medical center.

Issues first were identified after an unannounced site visit in late July by The Joint Commission, which accredits health care organizations.

Evaluators visited a handful of clinics and found some issues in cleaning, disinfecting or sterilizing some reusable equipment.

In one example, a clinic was soaking a fiber optic scope in a high-level disinfectant for 10 minutes instead of commission-required 12 minutes.

In another, a clinic reversed the recommended sequence for cleaning instruments, soaking them in a germicidal solution and then washing them with detergent instead of the other way around.

Kadlec and the state Department of Health then reviewed processes at all 22 clinics where cleaning, disinfection and sterilization was performed on site, ultimately identifying issues at the four sites.

A fifth site, West Kennewick Primary Care, also had problems with re-processing of equipment, although no procedures were performed using the instruments.

Kadlec took some immediate steps to address the concerns. It moved to using disposable instruments in its clinics when possible, and some outpatient procedures were moved to the main hospital, where sterilization wasn’t in question.

It also stepped up training. “We’ve had a lot of people working on this project for the last two months,” said Dr. Dale Hoekema, Kadlec’s chief medical officer. Kadlec now is reimplementing use of re-processed instruments at the clinics.

“We’re doing it step by step to make sure that when we re-institute those processes it’s done at a very high level of accuracy and accountability,” Hoekema said.

He added that, “over the last two months we’ve been working really hard on infection prevention measures, and they’re probably the best in the nation right now. We really have got it down. We agree we want to be at a high standard. We’re at that standard, and we’re going to continue to maintain that standard.”

The Joint Commission issued a preliminary denial of accreditation after the July visit, but Kadlec now has contingent accreditation status.

Sara Schilling: 509-582-1529; sschilling@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @SaraTCHerald

Kadlec Clinic is sending letters to about 300 patients potentially affected by sterilization inconsistencies.

A patient advocacy phone line is set up to answer questions; it’s staffed 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

The number is 509-942-2531.

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