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Austin Health has welcomed the findings of Safer Care Victoria’s review into the malfunction of our surgical washers that occurred in late 2019.
CEO, Adam Horsburgh, said a problem with the washers resulted in small specks of black rubber sticking to surgical equipment after it had been washed.
“The safety and wellbeing of our patients was the highest priority, and we postponed elective procedures as a precautionary measure as soon we became aware of the issue.
“Importantly, an independent medical and scientific assessment of the rubber found that was very unlikely to cause harm to patients.
“I would like to again sincerely apologise to patients who were impacted by this incident,” Mr Horsburgh said.
The Safer Care Victoria report includes 20 recommendations to help Austin Health improve its systems and processes and how future critical incidents are managed.
“Over the past several months we have been working hard to improve our systems and processes. Many of the recommendations contained in the report have already been implemented or have commenced.
“The surgical washers that caused the issue have been replaced. We have plans to replace all surgical washers at Austin Hospital, which will also give us greater capacity to manage future growth in elective surgery demand.
“Impacted patients who required surgery within 30 days received treatment within the recommended timeframe. We worked with several other health services to make this happen.
“Staff have worked hard to ensure that impacted patients whose surgery was not required within a 30-day timeframe also received their care as quickly as possible.
“While COVID-19 has affected our elective surgery services, only nine patients who were impacted are yet to receive their procedure,” Mr Horsburgh said.
Mr Horsburgh added that the pandemic has also given Austin Health the opportunity to test the improvements that have made to our management of critical incidents.
“The way the pandemic has been managed and how we’ve supported staff, patients and the broader community through the process demonstrates that we now have a very robust framework in place for managing critical incidents.
“This incident was an incredibly challenging time for our patients and staff.
“I would like to apologise again to patients for any distress or inconvenience caused, and sincerely thank staff and other health services who helped us through the incident.
“I also want to assure the community that Austin Health is a safe and reliable health service, and we remain committed to continuous improvement for the benefit of our patients.”
"We look forward to implementing any further recommendations that are outlined in the report,” he said.