From: Defence Media Centre
Sent: Tue 24/05/2011 4:54 PM

Media Release: Defence Health Advice - Personnel who deployed to Middle East Area of Operations Feb 2009 to Aug 2010

Defence personnel, contractors and civilians who underwent minor surgical procedures at the ADF Health Facility at Al Minhad Air Base between February 2009 and August 2010 have been requested to contact their local Defence medical facility or General Practitioner after an issue with a steriliser was recently identified in a governance check.

The Al Minhad Air Base Health Facility only performs minor surgical procedures such as the removal of skin lesions and other minor procedures. This facility is not used for any surgical procedures related to battle casualties.

An assessment found that the administration of the steriliser's records was not carried out in accordance with Australian standards. As such there was no guarantee that some instruments within the Health Facility were sterilised effectively.

Defence is unable to identify with 100% accuracy all individuals who had a minor surgical procedure performed as in some cases administrative records regarding minor procedures were not maintained except on personnel health records.

However, the instruments were thoroughly cleaned and put through a six layer process making it unlikely for infectious agents to survive. Since the issue was identified the steriliser has been returned to Australia and tested.

The steriliser was found to be operating in accordance with Australian standards and full sterilisation was achieved during the testing process.

Chief of Joint Operations Command, Lieutenant General Ash Power, said further investigation into the procedural error had been completed and steps taken to rectify the procedural errors in management.

“My key concern now is to ensure that any Defence personnel, contractors and civilians who had a minor surgical procedure at the facility have peace of mind,” Lieutenant General Power said.

“The medical advice I have received indicates that the risk of infection is considered low but all personnel need to ensure they undertake their full post-deployment medical, which includes a screening blood test, to be certain.”

“If personnel have completed the full medical review on their return to Australia any issues would already have been picked up – what we need to ensure is any of those people who have not yet gone through the process do so.

Defence members who have concerns should contact their local Defence health facility to discuss the issue and receive further advice.

Defence Civilians or contractors to Defence, or any other visitors to the ADF Health Facility at Al Minhad Air Base who may have been affected should contact their general practitioner using the same procedure they completed for their pre-deployment medical screening.

Defence will issue a full information package on the incident and recommended actions for potentially affected people. This package will be available on the internet at from 24 May.

The ADF population has a very low incidence of infectious disease thereby reducing the overall risk to patients through cross-contamination.

Media contact: Defence Media Operations (02) 6127 1999 or 0408 498 664