Officials with the Air Force Medical Service announced the results of a review yesterday which found that endoscopes used for upper and lower gastrointestinal procedures at Al Udeid Air Base, outside of Doha, Qatar, were cleaned in a manner inconsistent with sterilization guidelines from April 2008 to April 2016.

hepatitis C Image/CDC
hepatitis C

The review determined 135 patients had procedures during this period and may have been exposed to blood-borne diseases when an alternate cleaning method was used rather than the manufacturer’s recommended cleaning process.

“Providing quality health care to our Airmen and their families is our top priority,” said Brig. Gen. Robert Miller, Air Force Medical Operations Agency commander.  “We apologize to our patients and assure them that appropriate actions have been taken to address and mitigate the causes that led to this problem.”

Miller said several preventive measures have been taken starting with a Service-wide patient safety alert to confirm compliance with endoscope cleaning, decontamination, inspection, and sterilization processes. Air Force military treatment facility commanders were also directed to complete the same review of all reusable medical instruments and devices.  In addition, experts are reviewing current best practices to develop and implement standard processes in an attempt to prevent this issue from recurring.

Analysis by infectious disease experts shows the risk of contracting diseases is very low.  However, medical officials are encouraging patients to be tested as a precaution.

“The risk of exposure to patients is low,” said Miller.  “It’s important, though, for anyone who receives a notification to contact us to discuss the situation and if they desire to pursue diagnostic testing.  Our medical team is here to address concerns and help patients throughout this entire process.”

The Air Force Medical Service is in the process of notifying the patients and providing contact information for Healthcare Resolution Specialists who will answer questions and help identify locations for medical counseling and diagnostic testing.

“Our patients put their trust in us when they step into any of our medical facilities,” said Miller.  “We take potential risk to patient safety very seriously and are committed to informing those under our care of any increased risk.”

The Al Udeid clinic is no longer performing endoscopy and colonoscopy procedures.  All other procedures performed at the clinic were unaffected.