A recent report released by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) chronicled a study in which up to 30 percent of scopes used in gastro-intestinal procedures such as colonoscopies and endoscopies in U.S. hospitals and clinics were found to contaminated to the point of being an infection hazard, let alone a major OSHA violation.
Because of the intimate exposure of the scopes to a part of the human body that naturally contains waste products such as fecal matter and bacteria, the scopes need to be specifically and carefully cleaned and disinfected in an industry-accepted six-step process that starts with manual cleaning at the bedside, and ends with disinfection with a high-end solution.
But proper cleaning assumes that busy clinics and hospitals have staff properly trained in the disinfection of the scopes, some of which have very specific instructions depending on the model of the device. In addition, some infection control experts say more often than not, procedures are not being followed.
“This has become a champion pet peeve of mine,” says Kathy Rooker, owner of Columbus Healthcare & Safety Consultants in Canal Winchester, Ohio. “I have seen an employee cleaning a laryngoscope with a hand wipe and the patient was waiting in the room for them. If I was [a patient], I would request a doctor who would allow me to observe the cleaning process.”