The DMC submitted a five-page plan Tuesday to state regulators to fix multiple problems sterilizing surgical instruments cited in an August inspection, following an investigation by The Detroit News.


The Detroit Medical Center on Tuesday submitted a plan to state regulators to fix multiple problems sterilizing surgical instruments.

The five-page plan to the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) promises, among other things, to increase training, oversight and infection control practices. The plan came after the state in mid-September cited the DMC for eight violations of the public health code.

The investigation was in response to a Detroit News series in late August documenting 11 years of internal complaints about dirty instruments that complicated operations from brain surgeries to spinal fusions, kept patients under anesthesia unnecessarily and led to cancellations of dozens of operations.

“The key elements of our plan, some of which have already been implemented, include the use of a perioperative improvement council and task force to oversee our actions to improve operational protocols and sterilization processing,” the DMC wrote in a statement.

The plan is similar to a plan made public last week that the DMC submitted to the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Funding. The federal agency found the DMC in violation of federal rules because of chronic problems cleaning instruments.

The hospital system is set to lose federal funding if issues remain during a surprise inspection before Dec. 14.

“LARA has accepted the DMC’s plan of correction,” Jason Moon, communications director for LARA wrote in an email to The News on Tuesday. “We will continue to aggressively monitor the DMC’s progress to ensure all violations of the public health code are remedied.”

The plan focuses on fixing systematic problems in the cleaning of surgical instruments for hospitals at the DMC’s Midtown campus: Detroit Receiving, Harper University, Hutzel Women’s and DMC Heart hospitals.

The state has licensing control over the DMC and could issue fines or suspension if the situation persists. That appears unlikely.

In the next week or so, the state plans to hire a third-party company that will monitor progress on fixing the problems and report to LARA. The DMC will pay for the company. State regulators will follow up with an inspection to ensure problems are fixed, but Moon couldn’t say when that inspection would likely occur.

The News investigation found that issues cleaning the surgical equipment stemmed from a Central Sterile Processing Department in the basement of Receiving whose 74-plus workers clean thousands of instruments a day and assemble them into surgical kits for surgeries.

The federal report, though, found the problems extended to operating rooms, where technicians failed to soak bloody tools after operations — a basic step to cleaning them.

Since June, the DMC has used a private firm, Unity HealthTrust, to manage sterilization operations. The company was hired the same week The News first asked hospital administrators about the situation.

The DMC’s corrective action plan noted that Unity began daily quality control checks of equipment on Sept. 19 — three weeks after The News’ series prompted state and federal investigations.

Along with those checks, the DMC’s plan said it has performed assessments of workers’ skills, implemented intense monitoring of operating rooms and sterile processing facilities and beefed up requirements for central sterile processing employees. Among other things, employees who miss training can’t return to work, according to the plan.

The DMC has said no one was harmed or infected from improperly sterilized instruments, noting that they were intercepted before they could come into contact with patients.

The hospital system has declined to release data to back up the assertion, however. In Michigan, hospital-level infection data is kept confidential.

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