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Porter Adventist Hospital Resumes Surgeries After Sterilization Issue

By Rick Sallinger

DENVER (CBS4)- Porter Adventist Hospital has revealed that 5,800 patients were notified they could have been affected by surgical instrument cleaning issues. The hospital says the risk is extremely low, but is offering tests for those who want them.

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The original issue that happened at the hospital is now being called a human problem. It's been determined instruments for orthopedic and spine surgery were not properly scrubbed. The bone and tissue material is difficult to remove.

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Porter Adventist Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Patty Howell explained the cleaning process to CBS4 Investigator Rick Sallinger and noted the problem.

"The staff specific to orthopedics and spine, their precleaning processes were not as robust," she said, adding that additional training is being given.

Porter Adventist Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Patty Howell and CBS4 Investigator Rick Sallinger (credit: CBS)

Someone notified the Joint Commission that accredits hospitals. In February, the commission visited and issued a preliminary denial of accreditation.

But feeling it was safe, surgeries continued into April when letters were sent to patients telling them they could be at low risk of Hepatitis B, C or HIV.

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Jill Ruehrdanz underwent surgery at Porter and received the letter, "I developed an infection in my knee."

Some infections were reported, but it is not known if they are tied to the sterilization issue.

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Fortunately, Ruehrdanz says she is doing better, "I feel lucky my knee seems to be fine now."

Some infections were reported, but it is not known if they are tied to the sterilization issue.

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It was later revealed there was a second problem with the surgical equipment. A reddish residue appeared on instruments. All surgery was halted as a precaution until Thursday.

Tests determined that was simply iron deposits from the water.

Centura Health Senior Vice President Morre Dean (credit: CBS)

Porter Adventist Hospital is part of the Centura Health system.

Senior Vice President Morre Dean told CBS4 Investigator Rick Sallinger, "I want to apologize to our patients they put their trust in us and obviously we have an opportunity to improve."

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Additional Information From Colorado Dept. of Public Health and Environment:

Porter has established a hotline for patient questions. The phone number is 303-778-5694.

The public can call the Colorado Health Emergency Line for Public Information (COHELP) at 303-389-1687 or 1-877-462-2911 for general questions about surgical site infections, HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. COHELP hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The public also can email COHELP at

CBS4's Rick Sallinger is a Peabody award winning reporter who has been with the station more than two decades doing hard news and investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter @ricksallinger.

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