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Duke Health wants contractor to pay for hydraulic fluid mix-up

Posted June 26, 2008

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— Duke University Health System has demanded an arbitrator hear its complaint against a vendor in connection with surgical instruments that were contaminated by used hydraulic fluid.

About 3,800 surgical patients at Durham Regional Hospital and Duke Health Raleigh Hospital were exposed in late 2004 to instruments that had been washed with used hydraulic fluid instead of the usual cleaner. The fluid had been drained from hospital elevators and put in empty detergent drums, then mistakenly shipped back to the hospitals.

Dozens of patients said they suffered health problems ranging from infections to immune system reactions after the exposure. Duke Health officials have maintained the instruments were safe because they were sterilized after being washed in the hydraulic fluid, but they recently settled claims with an undisclosed number of patients.

Duke Health is seeking damages from Aramark Management Services, which Duke had contracted to maintain equipment in the two hospitals, including sterilizers. Aramark workers were negligent in not responding to complaints from surgeons and nurses about oily instruments, which could have corrected the problem with the hydraulic fluid, according to the petition for arbitration.

The petition asks that Aramark pay settlements, medical monitoring costs for surgery patients, costs of investigations, attorney fees and lost hospital revenue. Duke did not specify a dollar figure.


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  • davidgnews Jun 26, 2008

    Travised - they're apparently trying to recoup some of the money they've had to pay out already. This is just Duke administration doing what they do best LOL.

  • mramorak Jun 26, 2008

    They cut costs and hire people who dont know what they are doing anyway,so it was no surprise to me!

  • gordonbabe Jun 26, 2008

    That's it... pass the buck. As many of these instruments as they use... you'd think they'd know the difference between the real stuff and hydraulic fluid!

  • Travised Jun 26, 2008

    If Duke Hospital claimed that it was safe, why should they be going after the company? It was perfectly safe according to the hospital. Or is the hospital now changing their stance on the sterility and safety of those instruments?

  • davidgnews Jun 26, 2008

    sww1rb - I agree, it was a careless and negligent act on the part of the vendor, who should have been exercising quality control !

    I have worked in the Duke Hospital system, and saw firsthand that people on the front lines have many double-checks and precautions on everything from medicines to their procedures.

    IIRC, that's how the problem was found in the first place.

  • DurhamDude Jun 26, 2008

    I wonder how many of those patients suddenly had problems once they heard what happened?

  • Adelinthe Jun 26, 2008

    I don't blame Duke or their patients for suing this company. They had no business leaving their dirty hydraulic fluid behind regardless of what they had put it in.

    God bless.

    Rev. RB