Northern Health admits endoscope mistake

Northern Health is opening up about a mistake found in the cleaning of endoscopes at the University Hospital of Northern B.C.

On Wednesday morning, officials announced that a step in the procedure to pre-clean flexible endoscopes - used for colonoscopies, upper gastric scopes and endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatogram (looking at tubes that drain the liver, gallbladder and pancreas) exams - was not always being fully completed between 2012 and December 2014.

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The error - discovered by a staff member in December - has since been corrected, said Northern Health officials and the health authority is in the process of sending letters out to all patients but is not recommending any followup action or treatment.

Thousands of patients have undergone procedures with endoscopes at the Prince George hospital during this time period, but the risk of infection is minimal, said Northern Health's vice president of medicine Dr. Ron Chapman.

"Our data tracking of infectious diseases shows no increase of specific infection types during the 2012 to 2014 time period," Chapman said. "The consultation with B.C. Centre for Disease Control did not recommend testing for any infectious diseases given the extremely low, low risk."

Despite that small risk level, Chapman said it was important for Northern Health to be transparent and is apologizing for any "undue stress."

"Ultimately we took the step of sharing this information with patients and their physicians this week because it is the right thing to do," Chapman said. "Even though this is minimal risk to the patients, this information is about their personal health and well-being and we believe it is information that they would want to have."

Anyone with immediate concerns can contact Northern Health at 1-844-565-5516 or endoscopes.info@northernhealth.ca.

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