Roanoke, VA - Three Roanoke gynecologists have been each ordered to pay a thousand dollar fine.
The Virginia Board of Medicine found they were improperly cleaning medical instruments - because they were using a dishwasher.
The three doctors are affiliated with LewisGale Physicians.
The order handed down against these doctors shows they believed that what they were doing was right.
It turns out the dishwasher practice is not something unheard of.
The method was actually suggested by the previous residency director.
Dr. John Harding, Dr. Christopher Keeley, and Dr. William Walsh found themselves in front of the board last month to explain their cleaning procedures.
Those procedures included cleaning medical instruments, including speculums, in the dishwasher after an initial disinfection.
This type of dishwasher was only used for cleaning those instruments.
Those procedures changed in the summer of 2011 when LewisGale's Director of Quality advised that the procedure be done using an autoclave.
That sanitizes equipment at a much higher temperature than a dishwasher would.
To be clear: The dishwasher method for some instruments is an accepted practice.
An expert from UVA reinforced that during the hearing.
But all three were fined and have 60 days to pay.
LewisGale released this statement:
The physician practice changed its disinfection process nearly two years ago, after it was recommended during a routine, internal quality review. Prior to this time, the physicians felt they were in compliance since they were using a generally accepted practice recommended by their medical residency program and by other medical school experts for disinfecting medical instruments.
This practice involved scrubbing the instruments and spraying them with medical-grade disinfectant.
The process was completed by placing the instruments in a commercial dishwasher at its highest setting -- used only for medical instruments -- to complete the cleaning and disinfecting process and to remove the disinfectant agent.
At no time was there evidence of cross-contamination or risk, and no patients were ever harmed.
Because nothing is more important to us than the safety and well being of our patients, we will continue to evaluate and implement practices that provide the best, safest care possible to our patients.
Nancy H. May, Spokesperson
LewisGale Regional Health System