The Virginia Board of Medicine has fined three Salem physicians $1,000 each for using a dishwasher to clean medical instruments.
Dr. John Harding and Dr. Christopher Keeley, both gynecologists affiliated with LewisGale Physicians, were named in orders recently filed by the board following a hearing last month. A third physician in the practice, Dr William Kevin Walsh, consented to the fine without asking for a hearing.
After the hearing, the board found that Harding and Keeley improperly disinfected medical instruments, including speculums used for gynecological examinations, by cleaning them in a dishwasher at their practice.
John Jessee, a Roanoke attorney who represented the three doctors, said there was no evidence that any patients were harmed as a result of the practice.
However, the doctors’ office began using an autoclave, which disinfects medical instruments at much higher temperatures than produced by a dishwasher, after a LewisGale director of quality expressed concerns about the practice in July 2011, according to the board’s order.
Harding and Keeley told state regulators they believed using a dishwasher was an acceptable practice that presented no risks to patients. Speculums are not required to be sterilized in the way a scalpel is before surgery, they argued.
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