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The gynecologists had been using a dishwasher to disinfect instruments used in examinations.
Thursday, April 4, 2013
UPDATE April 5, 2013: Third physician at Salem facility fined
The Virginia Board of Medicine has fined two Salem physicians $1,000 each for using a dishwasher to clean medical instruments.
Dr. John Harding and Dr. Christopher Keeley, both gynecologists affiliated with LewisGale Physicians, were named in orders recently filed by the board.
After a hearing last month, the board found that Harding and Keeley improperly disinfected medical instruments, including speculums used for gynecological examinations, by cleaning them in a dishwasher at their practice.
John Jessee, a Roanoke attorney who represented the two doctors, said there was no evidence that any patients were harmed as a result of the practice.
However, the doctors’ office began using an autoclave, which disinfects medical instruments at much higher temperatures than produced by a dishwasher, after a LewisGale director of quality expressed concerns about the practice in July 2011, according to the board’s order.
Harding and Keeley told state regulators they believed using a dishwasher was an acceptable practice that presented no risks to patients. Speculums are not required to be sterilized in the way a scalpel is before surgery, they argued.
Nonetheless, a March 19 finding from the Board of Medicine, made public this week, ordered the doctors to pay fines of $1,000 within the next 60 days.
During the hearing, the doctors explained that they used the dishwasher method based on advice from their previous residency director.
And according to Jessee, the head of virology at the University of Virginia’s School of Medicine told the board the practice was acceptable.
Keeley told a committee of the board there was no evidence of increased infections or other problems with patients that could be linked to the dishwasher process, according to the board’s order.
“He did not know if anyone in the practice checked the Centers for Disease Control’s guidelines to see if the process they implemented was acceptable,” the order said.
A statement released Wednesday by LewisGale Physicians said the doctor’s office changed its disinfection practice nearly two years ago as the result of a routine internal quality review.
“Prior to this time, the physicians were using a generally accepted practice for disinfecting medical instruments, and no patients were harmed or at risk,” the statement read.
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