The state of Michigan opened an investigation last week into the Detroit Medical Center after a news report revealed that physicians had for years raised complaints about dirty surgical instruments at the five hospitals of its midtown campus.
The problems with surgical tools put patients at risk, extended or canceled some surgeries and complicated others, according to the Detroit News. In one case, blood from a previous operation spurted out of a suction tube that was supposed to draw blood from a 7-month-old undergoing surgery for heart defects.
“We are putting patients at risk frequently and now canceling up to 10 cases this week,” states a June 29, 2015 email from Joseph Lelli, chief surgeon at Children's Hospital, to administrators, the Detroit News reported.
The newspaper broke the story after obtaining and reviewing more than 200 pages of internal documents that showed that for more than a decade, DMC surgeons complained to hospital administrators about surgical instruments that were broken, dirty or simply missing. The hospitals affected were Children's, Detroit Receiving, Harper University, Hutzel Women's and DMC Heart. DMC has been part of Tenet Healthcare Corp. since October 2013.
CEO Joseph Mullany said in a memo to physicians that central sterile processing services had not led to any “safety issues and/or known surgical site infections.” DMC said it has taken steps to improve its central sterile processing department, which Conrad Mallett, DMC's chief administration officer, has said was the source of the problem.
State health officials have encouraged people to come forward with complaints.
DMC comprises nine hospitals, with more than 2,000 beds, in metropolitan Detroit and southeastern Michigan. It has changed hands twice in recent years.