Officials with the Veterans Administration Ann Arbor Health System met with two members of Michigan’s congressional delegation Tuesday about problems with contaminated surgical instruments that have caused delays in some surgeries.

U.S. Reps. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, and Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, met with surgical and sterile processing staff about particulate matter that started turning up on sterilized instrument trays last fall, following the repair of a water main break near the hospital’s sterile processing department.

Officials said Tuesday most of the affected trays are flagged by operating room staff prior to surgeries. As a precautionary measure, a decision was made several weeks ago to move open heart surgeries to other local hospitals.

“Our mission is to ensure patient safety and to provide the highest quality of surgical care,” said Dr. Bill Kuzon, chief of surgery for the VA Ann Arbor Health System and a professor of medicine at the University of Michigan. “We monitor our outcomes very carefully, and I am confident that there has been no increase in surgical site infections or other complications.

“Although it has been necessary to delay or cancel cases, we have used all available resources to ensure that our patients continue to receive timely and appropriate care.”

In a statement released Tuesday, Dingell and Walberg said they will introduce legislation this week “that will increase reporting requirements for VA Hospitals to improve transparency.” The lawmakers praised the Ann Arbor VA’s handling of the problem.

“This issue came to light because they were doing their job inspecting surgical instruments and discovered the problem,” the two lawmakers said, noting it does not appear that patients were harmed.

“We believe it is important that, like other hospitals, the VA be open and transparent and report the number of patients that have acquired surgical infections while receiving care at the VA, and the number of surgeries that have been canceled or moved to another hospital.”

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