Medical procedures that put 526 patients of the Buffalo Veterans Affairs Medical Center at risk of infection took place between April 19, 2015, and June 23, 2017, the medical center said Friday.
The VA Medical Center released new details about the incidents involving improperly cleaned medical scopes on Friday as it established a toll-free number for patients to call 24 hours a day: 1-833-761-5043.
The hospital acknowledged this week that it is notifying the patients that the use of improperly cleaned medical scopes may have put them at risk of infection, but officials previously refused to say exactly when the procedures took place.
The problem was discovered during a recent review of the disinfection process for the reusable equipment generally known as endoscopes, officials said in a brief statement. They said an employee in some cases may not have followed steps in the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions.
Hospital officials characterized the risk of infection as "very low," and announced the employee was immediately removed from his scope cleaning responsibilities and issued a notice of proposed removal from federal service in accordance with recent legislation that contains stronger accountability provisions.
Concerns around inadequately cleaned medical scopes usually revolves around the transmission of such illnesses as hepatitis C and HIV. "Notification does not mean veterans were infected," medical center officials said.
The VA continued to decline to offer any additional information — including what type of procedure the patients received, when the issue was discovered, how many scopes were involved, or what steps in the cleaning process were not followed.
For years, there has been increasing concern about infections linked to endoscopes, the flexible, lighted tubes that doctors use to peer inside patients' bodies. The devices can be difficult to clean, and require strict adherence to steps to remove organic residues and prepare for reuse in another patient.
Outbreaks have been associated with a number of different medical scopes, including duodenoscopes threaded into the top of the small intestine, gastroscopes passed into the stomach, colonoscopes inserted into the rectum to view the large intestine and bronchoscopes to view the airways.