In a quite shocking revelation it has been discovered that as many as 3,800 patients at two hospitals run by Duke University Health System were operated on last year with instruments that were washed in hydraulic fluid instead of detergent.
According to a report by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, patients were put in "immediate jeopardy" in November and December by the problem not being detected, despite complaints from medical staff about slick tools, and even then the hospitals did not fix the problem for weeks.
The agency oversees patient care at hospitals that receive payments from federal insurance programs.
Apparently a mix-up occurred when an elevator company drained hydraulic fluid into empty detergent barrels last summer. The detergent supplier later picked up the barrels and mistakenly redistributed them as washing fluid.
Duke Health officials then attempted to reassure patients in January saying that the likelihood of infection from the tools was "no more than the risk normally associated" with the procedures that the patients underwent.
However, dozens of patients who were exposed to the surgical instruments have reported on-going health problems ranging from fatigue and joint pain to problems serious enough to require hospitalization.
At least 50 patients who developed complications have taken their concerns to lawyers, though no one as yet has sued Duke or the hospitals.
However the elevator company and the detergent supplier have had two lawsuits filed against them.
Duke Health officials refused to comment further, citing possible lawsuits.