Colorado DOH confirms infections in 'a number of patients' who visited Denver hospital; link to breach unclear

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment confirmed surgical infections in "a number of patients" who underwent surgery at Denver-based Porter Adventist Hospital. It is unclear if the infections are linked to the hospital's inadequate surgical equipment sterilization practices, which are currently under investigation, the department announced April 11, according to The Denver Post.

The possible exposures occurred at Porter Adventist Hospital between July 21, 2016, and Feb. 20, 2018. The hospital mailed letters to the patients notifying them of the risk, and issued a public statement on the matter April 4.

The state health department became aware of the sterilization breach Feb. 21 and subsequently conducted an on-site survey of the hospital Feb. 22. Department officials are in the midst of an ongoing disease investigation into the infection control lapse.

The hospital suspended surgeries scheduled to take place April 5 and April 6 after DOH officials uncovered issues with how the hospital was sterilizing its surgical instruments following surgeries. Health officials also raised concerns about residue on the tools after they were cleaned, an issue the hospital attributed to a possible water quality problem, according to an April 11 DOH statement.

Porter Adventist is scheduled to resume surgeries "on a limited schedule" beginning April 12.

The DOH statement also noted Porter Adventist has instituted several changes as requested by state officials. The department did not specify how many patients had incurred surgical infections during the 18-month period or the types of infections.

"It is unknown if these infections are linked to the breach, and we may not be able to determine linkage," Larry Wolk, MD, executive director of CDPHE, said in the statement.

The department's initial reports on the hospital's infection control breach intimated patients may have been at risk of contracting hepatitis B, hepatitis C or HIV.

Porter Adventist Hospital previously told Becker's Hospital Review it is providing potentially exposed patients with information about surgical site infections and offering testing to patients for bloodborne pathogens.

"We understand that this information may cause concern, and are working closely with our patient care team, doctors and staff to ensure any patients involved have the information and resources they need," said the hospital. "We want to assure patients that our team immediately acted to remedy the situation. Recent survey results released by The Joint Commission, which accredits hospitals in the United States, revealed no errors in our process or protocols."

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