Sterilization equipment problems persist at new Stanton hospital
Officials trying to determine if problem lies with surgical instruments
After three months of trying, including bringing in outside expert help, health officials in the Northwest Territories are no closer to solving the problems plaguing equipment used to sterilize surgical instruments at the Stanton Territorial Hospital in Yellowknife.
"There are a number of different factors, there's the water quality, water testing for mineralization, the instruments themselves," said Health Minister Julie Green in the legislature on Tuesday. "Unfortunately, none of this has resulted in a full return to sterilization."
The sterilization machines use steam and heat to clean surgical instruments. The health department announced in late July they were malfunctioning and said some elective surgeries were being cancelled as a result.
Green said the problem affects surgeries that require larger instruments. She said since July, 200 surgeries have been completed. Of the 124 surgeries that have been cancelled since the equipment initially failed, 23 have since been completed.
"There is a need, of course, to address this big backlog," added Green. The minister, responding to questions from Frame Lake MLA Kevin O'Reilly, said the department is exploring whether they can send patients to Inuvik to complete their operations.
"We had been considering sending patients to Alberta but unfortunately that is no longer an option because surgeries for Albertans are also being cancelled for a variety of reasons, including a surge of COVID cases," Green said.
Equipment will be sent to Calgary for tests
Green said experts were brought up to try and solve the problem. Now, health officials are looking at sending the equipment down South to see if the problem lies with the instruments themselves rather than the sterilization machines.
"They are actually going to perform an experiment in the coming week by sending surgical equipment to the Foothills [Medical Centre] in Calgary to see whether the sterilization works in that facility, so they can identify whether the problem is with the instruments themselves or whether there still remains a problem with the sterilization machine," Green said.
Green agreed to instruct the department to begin providing updates on its website every two weeks so patients waiting for surgeries are kept informed.