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Mystery substance postpones dozens of surgeries at Edmonton hospital

Royal Alexandra Hospital. Vinesh Pratap, Global News

EDMONTON — The discovery of an unknown residue on sterilizing equipment at the Royal Alexandra Hospital has put off more than 50 surgeries.

“This has become a big issue,” said Dr. Eric Estey, the hospital’s chief of surgery.

“We’ve been having a lot of challenges getting to the bottom of it.”

Last week, a staining material was found on the wrap of sterilization equipment used mainly in joint-replacement surgeries.

Experts across the country are working on identifying the substance. The city and EPCOR have also been involved.

“This week has been a very difficult week at the Royal Alexandra Hospital,” said Estey. “It’s been very disappointing for patients who have had to have their surgery postponed.”

He said 51 patients have had surgeries postponed.

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Estey said the hospital is hoping to have a plan in place next week to reschedule those surgeries.

READ MORE: ‘Essential’ to replace aging Royal Alex, hospital foundation says 

He explained it isn’t an issue with the sterilizing equipment itself.

“At this point, the sterilizing equipment is all functioning effectively.

“The material that’s used to wrap the sterile equipment is sterile, we just have an unidentified substance. We don’t believe that this is an infectious cause, but because it is an unknown substance, we have erred on the side of safety.”

He added the sterilizers have all been recertified, recalibrated and found to be sterile.