Your Hospital is Not Invisible

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , March 14, 2012

The Wyoming Department of Health also issued a statement indicating that the issue had been resolved:

"Following receipt of the anonymous complaint in November, our department did investigate the issues surrounding the airway devices at the hospital in Sheridan. They addressed concerns about the tracking of the use of the devices as well as the sterilization procedures. Our department ordered those issues to be fixed and they were fixed that same day at the hospital. Since then, there have been no related reports of illness made to the hospital or to our department," the statement read.

After HealthLeaders Media showed SMH's statement to Public Citizen, the advocacy group issued a counter-counter-statement ridiculing the hospital's assurances that former patients were not in danger.

"The claim by the hospital that ‘there have been no infections or complications that have been reported in relation to this situation' is ludicrous for two reasons," Carome told HealthLeaders Media.

"First, because the hospital did not proactively notify affected surgical patients of their exposure to inadequately sterilized devices, patients experiencing any infections or complications would not have attributed such events to the exposure since they were unaware that inadequately sterilized LMAs had been used. Second, certain infections may be asymptomatic, and without appropriate screening, may have gone undetected so far."

It was not clear at deadline if SMH was planning a counter-counter-counter statement. It almost doesn't matter. Did SMH correct the problem, as it claims? Or did the hospital sweep it under a gurney, as Public Citizen suggests?

Who knows?! The rest of us don't have to pick a side. For us, the back-and-forth between the hospital and the advocacy group is better seen as a cautionary tale about questionable decisions that can come back to haunt you. 

The moral of the story: No matter its size or prominence, if your hospital deviates from SOP, no matter how seemingly innocuous at the time, you'd better have a good reason and you better be prepared to explain it to the world.

John Commins is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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