Northeastern Health System is offering a group of patients blood screenings after medical personnel determined that scopes used for a diagnostic procedure were not completely disinfected.

The Daily Press was notified Thursday that patients were receiving phone calls and letters from the Tahlequah hospital, informing them that new EGD (esophagogastroduodenoscopy) scopes had been disinfected, but by using a process for older EGD scopes. The test is performed with an endoscope to examine the lining of the esophagus, stomach, and first part of the small intestine.

Jim Berry, NHS executive vice president and hospital administrator, released a statement in which he said the hospital has contacted all of the affected patients about "an incomplete disinfecting process for EGD."

"These scopes are not sterilized, only disinfected according to manufacturer's recommendations," Berry said. "New EDG scopes were purchased in April of 2018. The new scopes were slightly different than the older model we still use; therefore, the new scopes are cleaned slightly differently. All scopes have been disinfected, but using the old process. Furthermore, the scopes have been regularly tested for cleanliness using ATP strips. All scopes passed prior to use on the next patient."

Berry said that because the new disinfecting process was not followed, the affected patients have a slight risk of blood-borne pathogen exposure. He also said the patients were offered free blood screens and that NHS strives to be transparent, "which means we identify issues and correct our mistakes, especially patient care issues."

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