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The Knesset Labor, Social Affairs and Health Committee has demanded that the Health Ministry immediately prohibit the reuse - after sterilization - of medical equipment designated "disposable" and "for one use only."
Committee chairman MK Moshe Sharoni (Gil Pensioners Party) said that despite the efforts of ministry officials and hospital directors to insist that equipment is properly sterilized, "the evidence presented to us by the State Comptroller shows that much is hidden. We cannot let this pass [without investigation]," Sharoni said.
A 2005 comptroller's report on the ministry criticized the reuse of medical equipment, claiming that some of it was contaminated.
Ministry associate director-general Dr. Boaz Lev said that throwing away "disposable medical equipment after one use would cost NIS 60 million a year." This is not a new issue, Lev said, and it has been discussed numerous times by the ministry.
Lev said that he believed it was safe to reuse approved equipment, but that the director-general's guidelines for reuse had been held up by the attorney-general's office.
Medical equipment companies prefer to produce single-use equipment in order to earn more from additional sales; they also usually limit their guarantees and responsibility for equipment to one-time use.
Various television reports have recently denounced the reuse of medical equipment and stated that the practice is dangerous.
Dr. Benny Davidson, director-general of Assaf Harofeh Medical Center and chairman of the ministry's National Council for Logistics said that hospital directors decide what equipment can be reused and how many times.
"Recycling started when the manufacturers started making equipment from plastic and not metal. Reuse is permitted all over the world if it is done properly."
He maintained that the Channel 2 report had been instigated by a medical equipment manufacturers' lobby.
"Hospital directors take into account cost benefit, and if something endangers patients...they do not use it," Davidson asserted. He also claimed the State Comptroller's report contained exaggerations and errors.
Meidad Gissin of the Health Consumer's Organization said "there is no argument that reuse of medical equipment is dangerous for patients and violates his rights. The ministry must take a stand [against it]," he said. Baruch Levy of the Israel Medical Association told the committee that clear guidelines and procedures must be set down for sterilizing and supervising recyling.
The committee, which opposed recycling equipment, said that all patients should be notified if reused equipment is to be utilized for their treatment so they can give informed consent and that such use must be registered in medical files. Within 60 days, the committee decided, the ministry must present a report presenting the quality of recycled equipment now used in hospitals.