POSTED: Thursday, March 10, 2011 - 2:24pm
UPDATED: Friday, March 11, 2011 - 8:39pm
NEW ORLEANS, La (WDSU) -- Patients have filed a class-action lawsuit against Tulane Medical Center after the hospital administration admitted that an endoscope used to perform procedures like a colonoscopy was not properly sterilized for several months.
According to a statement from attorney Ron Austin and a letter to Tulane patients, the device was not properly sterilized between Oct. 7 and Dec. 1. The lawsuit, filed last month, claims the hospital exposed patients to diseases like hepatitis B and C, as well as HIV.
Documents: Lawsuit Against Tulane | Hospital's Letter To Patients
"All of the affected patients will require medical monitoring for infectious disease," Austin said in a statement. "Many of them are fearful of coming forward due to privacy concerns. Accordingly, the class action petition was filed using anonymous names for two clients, John and Jane Doe."
The lawsuit claims the hospital "negligently exposed him (John Doe) to infectious diseases," and it seeks unspecified damages for the man and his wife, who was also exposed to diseases due to sexual activity with her husband.
The hospital claims in its letter to patients that the sterilization process involves several steps, and in one of those steps, the endoscope was not being disinfected at the proper temperature.
"Since endoscope processing uses multiple disinfecting steps, it is the opinion of the experts we contacted that it is highly unlikely that these conditions could be transmitted," hospital CEO Robert Lynch said in the letter.
The hospital is offering free disease testing for all affected patients.
"Patient safety is of paramount importance to us. We regret this occurred and have taken steps to assure that this problem does not happen again," Lynch said.
Tulane released a statement Thursday reiterating that health officials believe the risk of infection is "minimal to non-existent."
The hospital said a total of 360 patients were affected, and it is contacting them to offer free testing and counseling services.
A call line has been established for patients to call (504) 988-1155 regarding any concerns that they may have.