Cleanliness at WakeMed questioned

July 6, 2009 5:10:11 PM PDT
In the basement of WakeMed in Raleigh, the hospital pharmacy prepares the medicine that helps make sick people better.But two people who work in the part of the pharmacy where IV bags and chemotherapy drugs are prepared came to Eyewitness News with concerns about cleanliness. They had pictures that showed dirty conditions.

They said they were concerned about patients.

"I don't want to be treated there," one of the workers told Eyewitness News investigator Steve Daniels. "It's not good situation. I am concerned about the safety - the health and welfare of the patients in that hospital."

"There's a running joke that we're not dressing up to keep the room clean from us, we're dressing up to keep us clean from the room," the worker continued.

The pictures the worker brought us show a dirty floor entering the IV room, a dirty ceiling and cabinets that are falling apart.

"These things need to be [clean] as the body doesn't do well when there's bacteria, contaminants, glass shards, any other uncleanly or gross filth," a worker explained.

The pictures also showed the vent hood where the IV bags are prepared had caked on residue.

"It could be a combination of a dozen or more drugs, it could be dextrose, it could be multi-vitamin, it could be dust, it could be somebody sneezing, it could be all of the above plus more," said a worker. "None of which does one want to be blown into what's supposed to be a sterile product."

"Could that cross contaminate other IV bags, could patients get something they shouldn't?" Daniels asked.

"100 percent," answered the worker.

The WakeMed insiders also brought us shoe covers with dirt on them that they said proved the floors weren't being kept clean. They also had rags that they said had been wiped on surfaces in the so-called "clean rooms" that showed dirt.

"Those rags are just off a few surfaces from one room," said one worker.

"Those are the surfaces on which drugs are being prepared," said the second.

"Is there any proof that patients are getting sick because of what's in that room?" Daniels asked.

"It's very hard to prove because these patients are sick anyway," said a worker. "It would require an autopsy and most people, most families, do not want to grant permission for autopsies to be done."

When we approached WakeMed about the concerns, administrators took us on a tour of the pharmacy. What we saw looked very different from the photos. Sources at the hospital told us the pharmacy staff worked hard the night before to get it looking good and even did some painting.

"Do you have any reason to doubt the information, the photos, the documents, the stories these people are telling us?" Daniels asked administrator Dr. Meera Kelley.

"In terms of the photographs that were taken, they appear to be taken in the pharmacy department. So I don't, I don't deny that they were taken as they are. I do object to the idea that this is the way things normally look down there," said Kelley.

"But you know it's disappointing to be confronted with pictures," she continued. "Certainly it's not where we want to be."

"Is that consistent with what you'd like to see at WakeMed?" Daniels asked.

"Certainly not," she responded. "Also not consistent with what I usually see at WakeMed."

"But on occasion it happens, and that's why we have to all be working together," she continued. "As soon as we identify something like this we need to work together to make sure we clean ourselves or get somebody to clean it."

"Should patients and their loved ones be concerned about conditions at WakeMed?" Daniels asked.

"I believe patients and their families, their loved ones, should feel the utmost confidence in the care provided by WakeMed," Kelley offered. "We work very hard to keep patients safe, we work very hard to keep the environment clean and sterile where needed."

WakeMed administrators told us they are committed to patient safety, quality and cleanliness. They also say there is no evidence any of the things we saw impacted patient care - which they say is their number one priority.

Click here for part 2 of Steve Daniels reports on the WakeMed pharmacy


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