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For the week of November 15 through 21, 2000

Hospital absolved in eye infections

Department of Health and Welfare releases report

Express Staff Writer

Following an investigation, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare stated the Wood River Medical Center was not deficient in its procedures related to surgery there last summer that resulted in two eye infection cases.

That announcement came in the form of a two-page, Nov. 7 letter to St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center CEO John Moses.

The health department began its investigation Oct. 30 to look into the cause of infections that left two local residents blind in one eye following consecutive cataract surgeries at the Hailey hospital July 25.

Health Department nurse Gary Guiles and supervisor Sylvia Creswell wrote to Moses that a review of hospital records "revealed nothing unusual."

Guiles and Creswell stated they found nothing unusual with hospital staff, facilities, equipment or medications.

The Health Department still has not identified a cause for the infections.

Ketchum-based ophthalmologist Dr. Stephen Graham performed the operations.

However, Graham was not interviewed, Guiles and Creswell stated, because he was not available at the time of the investigation.

Guiles and Creswell stated further that St. Luke’s reported that "the surgeon had refused to cooperate with the hospital in its investigation."

Graham said in an interview Tuesday that he had not been contacted by the Department of Health and Welfare. He said he had offered to meet with one hospital representative to discuss the cases, but would not participate in the hospital’s peer review process because "it really is an inappropriate venue to discuss the hospital’s infection control problems."

Guiles’ and Creswell’s letter states the health department also reviewed:

  • The hospital’s "autoclave [sterilizer] records…which showed instruments were properly sterilized."

  • The company that supplied the instruments, equipment and a technician for the surgeries, but company representatives were "not able to identify a cause."

  • The hospital’s medication, by taking cultures, but the "cultures were negative."

Guiles and Creswell stated also that several interviews of hospital personnel were conducted before the health department determined the hospital was not deficient.

Interviewees identified in the letter included the operating room nurse on duty, the hospital’s infection control officer and the physician chairman of the medical staff’s Quality Assurance Committee.

Wood River Medical Center administration stated the hospital is conducting a separate internal investigation, but no report has been released.


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