Wrangell Sentinel -


PeaceHealth to implement surgical safety system


Ketchikan Medical Center is poised to become the first hospital in the PeaceHealth system and the fourth facility in Alaska to implement the SurgiCount Safety-Sponge in its operating and delivery rooms.

The SurgiCount system is designed to prevent retained medical devices being left inside a human body - one of the most common surgical errors.

Studies have shown that sponges get left inside one patient in every 6,000 surgeries in the U.S.

“We want that number to be zero,” said Patrick Branco, CEO of Ketchikan Medical Center. “By using this system, we intend to eliminate the chance of this happening to even one of our patients.”

Marla Sanger, the interim CEO of Wrangell Medical Center and a PeaceHealth employee, said she was aware of the system but was not certain if Wrangell Medical Center would utilize it in the near future.

“It’s good to have systems like this in place,” Sanger said. “But I just don’t know enough about it at this point, though it is something we might visit.”

One early adopter of this technology was the Mayo Clinic Health System which installed the SurgiCount system in its Rochester clinic in 2009. Since then more than one million sponges have been scanned and not one sponge has been left behind.

The system works by monitoring each sponge used in a surgical manner.

During surgeries and childbirth, a package of sponges is used in the procedure. Each wrapped package has a bar code that is scanned at the beginning of a procedure to enter the number of sponges being used into the system.

When the procedure is complete, the sponges – each of which has an individual bar code – are scanned individually to make sure each is accounted for. Sponges will also continue to be counted manually.

“This technology enhances our already proven counting system by adding a real-time quality measure,” said Operating Room Nurse Manager Kimm Schwartz. “KMC has a good patient safety record, so by taking this simple precaution we’re making it even safer for our patients, providing them with even more peace of mind.”

PeaceHealth plans to put the SurgiCount system in place in each of its hospitals over the coming months. Although a number of other hospitals in the northwest are now using the system, PeaceHealth will be the first in the region to implement the technology system-wide in all its hospitals.

As for the cost, Branco says that the bar code system “pays for itself many times over if we prevent just one retained sponge mishap for one of our patients.”


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