Surgeries Back On As Porter Hospital Officials Say ‘We’re Sorry’ After Infection Control Problems

<p>(Nathaniel Minor/CPR News)</p>
<p>Porter Adventist Hospital is in south Denver. </p>
Photo: Porter Adventist Hospital
Porter Adventist Hospital is in south Denver.

Centura Health and Porter Adventist Hospital executives have one message for the thousands of patients who were recently informed that there’s a chance, albeit small, that they may have been infected with Hepatitis B, C or HIV while at the Denver hospital.

"We're sorry,” said Morre Dean, a senior vice president at Centura Health. “We believe Porter Adventist Hospital provides high-quality care. And it's important that we continue to do that.”

The hospital sent letters to 5,800 patients who underwent orthopedic or spine surgery between July 21, 2016 and April 5, 2018 after independent inspectors from the Joint Commission, an accreditation firm, took issue with Porter Adventist staff’s pre-cleaning of surgical tools.

“These are very difficult to clean,” said Dr. Patty Howell, chief medical officer at Porter, said of the instruments. “[And] that was a contributing factor to the human error of perhaps not cleaning them as robustly as they should have. We have retrained all of the people in that area."

After instruments are pre-cleaned, Howell explained, they are sent through a multi-step sterilization process. Inspectors only took issue with the pre-cleaning process, she said.

Howell said there have been no confirmed cases of virus transmission because of the infection control issues. A press release from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which is investigating Porter, said the department has learned of “a number of patients” who had surgical site infections. But any link to the problematic pre-cleaning process is unclear as of yet.

“Surgical site infections are a risk in every surgery,” said Chrissy Nicholson, a spokeswoman for the hospital.

In a separate incident, Porter had suspended surgeries after external tests found mineral scaling on surgical instruments. Porter is now descaling its washing equipment and resumed some surgeries Thursday, Dean said.

"I can't say that I've ever been through anything quite like this,” Dean said. “This is a tough one for us."

Any patients who believe they could be affected can call Porter’s hotline at 303-778-5694, and check an FAQ on its website.