Denver VA Medical Center shuts down surgical unit due to problems with equipment sterilization

Trace mineral deposits found on surgical tools

DENVER - The Denver Veterans Affairs Medical Center has temporarily halted surgeries due to a problem with sterilizing surgical instruments.

In a statement provided to 7NEWS, the medical center said:

We have detected trace mineral deposits on select surgical instruments, and are in the process of resurfacing these instruments. As a result, we are rescheduling affected procedures at the Denver VAMC.

One of the affected patients, who asked not to be identified, told 7NEWS that he’s been waiting for needed surgery for several months.

The patient said his back was injured earlier this year in an accident.

"I'm in a lot of pain," he said. "I’m self-employed and haven’t really worked now for a good three months."

The injured vet says he had back surgery scheduled for Friday, but received a call from the VA hospital Wednesday informing him that the surgical unit was temporarily closing due to the sterilization problems.

"They did not know when it would be open again for use," he said.

The patient says they gave him a choice, he could reschedule with the VA Medical Center once the unit re-opened, or he could go "fee based," meaning visit a civilian hospital. He says he opted to go to a civilian hospital, thinking it might be quicker. Now, he wonders if that was the right decision.

When asked how long the unit would be closed, a hospital spokesman told 7NEWS they were just planning to close it on Friday.

He later sent a statement to 7NEWS which says, "We are unable to predict when normal operations will resume."

The patient says he wants to have the surgery soon, so he can recover, go back to work and take care of his family.

The hospital says it has begun using disposable equipment and will resume full operations "once we have conducted reprocessing of instrumentation."

Hospital officials say they are working with other medical partners to provide urgent surgical procedures to veterans who need them. They also say they are in the process of awarding a contract for mobile cleaning of instruments and are evaluating other instrument cleaning options.

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