SA Health has responded to criticism for not naming a chemical at the centre of a scare involving babies’ bottles at a hospital in Adelaide’s north by issuing a statement to reveal the product involved.
On Wednesday, staff at the Lyell McEwin Hospital contacted parents of more than 30 newborn babies to alert them of the bungle, which involved a bottle washer being connected to a chemical descaler instead of a detergent.
The department said there was a low risk of mouth irritations among infants exposed to the descaler.
The error was not noticed for six days, and it took another four days for families to be notified.
SA Health late on Thursday revealed that the product involved was acidic cleaning concentrate Deconex-34GR.
“After the human error was discovered, external clinical advice was sought and the manufacturer was contacted,” a spokesperson said.
“Patients in the hospital were examined and case notes of patients were reviewed to determine who was potentially impacted.
“As soon as these processes were completed, we began contacting the patients’ families and there has been no reported impact to patients.”
The statement follows a senior doctor at the hospital on Wednesday being unable to name the chemical that had been incorrectly used.
“I don’t have a name that I can give you, I’m afraid. I don’t know the name of the product,” said head of paediatrics Dr Mark Thesinger.
“The descaler as I understand is just another cleaning agent, but a cleaning agent for the bottle washer rather than for the bottles themselves.”
Notification delay criticised by Opposition
SA Opposition health spokesman Stephen Wade said on Thursday morning parents had a right to know exactly what product their children may have come into contact with.
“It’s outrageous that the Lyell McEwin Hospital waited four days to alert the families,” he said.
“For a spokesperson to not be able to identify the agent does raise questions about whether this has been properly investigated and whether people can feel confident in the information they are receiving.”
Mr Wade said the incident was more proof of an entrenched “culture of cover-up” within SA Health.
“It’s concerning that clinicians are not able to give the public full information about what’s involved here,” he said.
“After all, people will be saying: ‘how do you know what the impacts of the agent might be if you don’t know what the agent is?'”
The SA Health spokesperson said an internal review of procedures was underway and staff were being “retrained on the use of equipment”.
The hospital said the most likely people to be affected were newborn or premature infants and advised families with concerns to ring on 0466 506 392.