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Hard Water Leads to Cancelled Surgeries at Local Hospital


surgeon gloves

Staining was identified on surgical instruments used at Memorial Healthcare Hospital in Owosso, Michigan, during an otherwise routine inspection process. Officials at the hospital canceled several scheduled and elected surgeries as a precautionary measure after they discovered visible stains on surgical instruments that were believed to be sterile.

According to Brian Long, President and CEO of Memorial Healthcare, the cleaning process at the hospital for these instruments includes three different processes, including hand washing, followed by a machine cleaning that uses various detergents and chemicals. The stainless steel surgical instruments are then cooled, wrapped, and stored in an autoclave to keep them sterile until use during surgery.

During the inspection process two weeks ago staining and darkening was noted on multiple surgical instruments scheduled for use in the hospital. Long described the staining as comparable to the film seen on a glass after a dishwasher cycle in a statement to MLive.

The Culprit: Hard Water

 Long stated that the staining found on the surgical instruments did not include any pitting or corrosion that would be considered eminently dangerous. However, the stains could introduce “the trappings of biologics or other items that can make it more difficult to maintain sterile instruments.”

Long said that the team at Memorial Healthcare determined that the cause of the staining was the hardness of the water in their drinking system. Hard water itself isn’t dangerous, but the inclusion of total dissolved solids like calcium, magnesium, and other minerals can pose potential threats in situations like these where absolute sterility is needed.

The minerals found in hard water can alter the pH level, increasing alkaline and acidity levels that can deter sterilization efforts. Long admitted that the hardness of the water in the hospital’s drinking water system “was becoming more and more difficult to control.” The administrators at the hospital contacted representatives from the city and confirmed that there has been a change in the composition of the water coming into their system.

The Solution — Water Softening and Filtration

In order to remedy the situation, Memorial Healthcare has installed a reverse osmosis system to remove more of the total dissolved solids that cause the staining. The system grants the hospital greater control over their water quality so the surgical instruments cleaned at their facility can be reliably sterile.

The surgeries that were canceled during the processing period are in the process of being rescheduled. Patients are advised to contact the hospital directly with any questions.

Treat hard water in your own home by installing one of our Pelican Advantage Series Salt Water Softeners. The system utilizes salt to drastically reduce the amount of minerals and total dissolved solids in your drinking water. Avoid scale buildup with our industry-leading water softener that softens water with metered technology to backwash only when needed, thereby wasting as few gallons of water as possible.

You can also take a page from Memorial Healthcare’s book and have a 6-Stage Reverse Osmosis Filtration System installed in your home. The advanced technology filters out unwanted contaminants like total dissolved solids and minerals you can further prevent further hard water problems on your fixtures and appliances.

Even if you aren’t cleaning surgical instruments in your home you can benefit from a drastic reduction in spotting and scaling. Never worry about water streaks again when you choose a water softener or filter that features a high flow rate, easy installation, and a 5-year manufacturer’s warranty.

Pelican Combo System Salt-Free Water Softener Whole-House Water Filter