As Detroit Medical Center waits to hear from state and federal regulatory officials about the results of a recent inspection of its central sterile processing department, CEO Joe Mullany issued an email update to employees and others about steps DMC has taken to address problems with improperly sterilized surgery instruments.
Mullany's email sent Tuesday said that at the time of the Aug. 26 article in The Detroit News DMC had already taken several steps to improve instrument sterilization.
"At the end of 2015, we took an important step when we decided to begin the process of outsourcing our surgical sterilization management to Unity HealthTrust, a highly regarded organization with more than 45 years of experience overseeing these functions for companies across the country," Mullany said.
Unity HealthTrust's contract began in June.
But The Detroit News story outlined 11 years of problems with sterile processing that employees and surgeons had complained about. Surgical instruments were improperly cleaned and sometimes broken, causing surgeons to delay or cancel dozens of operations. Surgeries ranged from appendectomies to brain surgeries to cleft palate repair and to spinal fusions.
For example, The News reported that open-heart surgery for a 7-month-old girl was interrupted at Children's Hospital of Michigan because a tube leading to a bypass machine was clogged with blood from a previous operation.
The instrument cleaning problem began during the tenure of Mike Duggan, who was CEO from 2004 until 2012, when he resigned to make a successful bid for mayor of Detroit. It continued after DMC was sold to for-profit Vanguard Health Systems in 2010 and two years later when Tenet Healthcare Corp. acquired Vanguard.
"Our surgical services team takes to heart the care and safety of the individuals who have their surgeries performed here each year," Mullany said. "Our entire leadership team is focused on taking the necessary steps to improve our efficiencies and processes and to delivering the highest quality of service."
On Aug. 29, inspectors from the CMS and the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs began a review of DMC's surgical sterilization service. The survey was completed the next day.
"It may take several weeks to receive the results from the survey," Mullany wrote. "We will continue to work collaboratively with (Medicare and the state of Michigan) as well as our physicians and staff."
Mullany said the public can view updates on the progress at DMC's Message To the Community website.