Dozens more operations cancelled at major public hospital
ANOTHER 54 elective operations at the Princess Alexandra Hospital had to be postponed again today amid ongoing sterilisation issues, with surgery unlikely to return to normal until next week.
But Metro South Hospital and Health Service chief executive Shaun Drummond has pledged to introduce extra elective surgery lists on the weekend and in the evenings to catch up on the hundreds of operations affected by problems with the hospital's sterilisation equipment.
So far, 184 elective operations have had to be delayed since last Thursday, and more are expected to be rescheduled as the hospital slowly builds back up to a normal surgical workload in the coming days.
Mr Drummond said 15 elective operations were performed today - well short of the 80 usually scheduled at Queensland's second-biggest public hospital.
"Over the rest of the week, we will slowly increase our elective surgery to be able to return to normal levels by the end of the week," he said.
The surgery problems have stemmed from a new chemical being added to the hospital's sterilisation equipment.
That resulted in an unusual residue ending up on packs of sterilised surgical instruments.
"All the instruments have always been sterile and there's no patient safety issue at all," Mr Drummond said. "But it's best practice if you get any mark on that outer wrapping, you reject it just in case there could be a problem."
Mr Drummond said that although the problem with the sterilisation equipment had been identified and fixed, packs of surgical instruments were having to be put through the machines multiple times to rid them of the chemical stain.
Each sterilisation run takes four hours and has a capacity of 60 packs of surgical instruments.
"We've got to run them through three times so it's like 12 hours to make sure we don't have the residue on them and the complex has 600 trays of instruments. That will take multiple days to catch up."
Mr Drummond admitted that last weekend a kidney was flown to NSW while the Brisbane hospital's sterilisation equipment was purged to rid it of the chemical trace.
"The kidney was never offered to a Queensland patient. We never cancelled a patient," he said. "We send organs interstate all the time. When we do send an organ interstate, we actually get one back from that state later. It's effectively a swap."
Mr Drummond insisted patient safety was paramount in every decision they had made since problems with the sterilisation equipment emerged.
"While we regret the need to reschedule patients, it is always in the paradigm of their safety is first and foremost," he said. "We're going to run extra weekend and evening lists to catch up with that rescheduled surgery so that people still get their operations in clinically recommended time frames."