Goshen Hospital surgical patients notified of potential for infection

Elkhart Truth file photo Goshen Hospital officials believe the risk of surgical infection is "extremely low" but are offering free testing after technicians missed a step in equipment sterilization from April through September. 

GOSHEN — More than 1,100 patients who underwent surgery at Goshen Hospital may have been exposed to infectious diseases due to an equipment sterilization issue, officials said Monday. 

One step in a multistep cleaning process was not completed with certain surgical instruments from April through September, according to a statement from the hospital. 

"The surgical instruments in question were still treated with other usual chemical disinfection and machine sterilization processes which include a wide margin of safety; however, we are not able to determine if such instruments were completely sterile prior to use," the statement said. 

Patients could have been exposed to hepatitis C virus, hepatitis B virus, and human immunodeficiency (HIV) virus.

“Even though we believe the risk is extremely low, out of an abundance of caution, we are offering patients free testing for these viruses," health officials said. 

A call center has been established and patients involved have been notified via mail providing details for testing.

“As with any patient safety concern, we rigorously investigated all aspects around the incident,” said Dr. Daniel Nafziger, the hospital's chief medical officer. “We have put strict policies and additional safety measures in place to ensure it does not happen again. We also want to express our concern for each of these patients.”

An investigation by Goshen Health identified 1,182 surgical patients who may have been exposed, the hospital said. 

“While we apologize for the worry and inconvenience this situation may cause, our patients’ safety and well-being are our utmost priority,” said Randal Christophel, president and chief executive officer. “We want to assure our patients we will assist in every way possible. For those patients receiving a letter, please call us at 574-364-2100 with any questions and take the time to get tested.”

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