Improperly cleaned equipment leads to infection risk at Piedmont - CBS46 News

Improperly cleaned equipment leads to infection risk at Piedmont West

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ATLANTA (CBS ATLANTA) -

More than 450 people are at risk of getting HIV or hepatitis because of a mistake made at a local hospital.

Piedmont Hospital said, for nearly two years workers at the West Piedmont Surgery Center failed to properly clean equipment used for colonoscopies.

When you hear something wasn't cleaned properly you probably think it's still really dirty, but that wasn't the case. The equipment had been cleaned; it just didn't make it to the final cycle, a soak in enzymatic soap.

"Its sorta icing on the cake that takes place after the routine cleaning to give extra guarantee that there will not be ability to transfer germs. It was that part that was missing," said Dr. Patrick O'Neal, the Director of Health Protection for the GA Department of Public Health.

But without it, Piedmont Hospital had to own up to a major mistake that put 456 patients at risk of getting HIV or hepatitis.

Piedmont Hospital didn't make someone available for an on-camera interview, but did release a statement that said in part, "We sincerely regret and apologize for this situation and have taken the necessary steps to ensure this does not happen again."

Piedmont Hospital did notify each person at risk, urging them to get tested. They also pointed out the risk is literally 1 in a million.

"The likelihood of contracting those diseases is extremely small, but there is a risk," said O'Neal.

It's a risk doctors fear could scare away some future patients; something they said could end up being even worse.

"The risk of colon cancer is certainly much greater than the risk of some kind of hospital-acquired infection from this procedure," said O'Neal.

As for any punishments for Piedmont Hospital, that is being handled by the Department of Community Health which is separate from Public Health. It declined to comment because it's an open investigation.

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