Surgical gown shortage leads to postponed surgeries

NEWTON, Mass. (WBZ/CNN) - A cancer patient near Boston was told he would have to wait for his badly needed surgery. The reason was a shortage of surgical gowns, which is affecting hospitals across the nation.

The Food and Drug Administration asked providers to stop using a specific Cardinal Health gown because of "quality issues identified at a contract manufacturer's facility." (Source: WBZ via CNN)

The man was diagnosed with stage 3 pancreatic cancer on Jan. 7.

Then at the family's first oncology appointment at Newton-Wellesley Hospital, they say the receptionist told them there might be a two-week delay on a procedure to install a chemotherapy port because of an impending recall on a popular brand of sterile gowns worn by surgeons.

The Food and Drug Administration asked providers to stop using a specific Cardinal Health gown because of "quality issues identified at a contract manufacturer's facility."

Cardinal Health says that at this time it cannot guarantee the product is sterile.

The potential for a procedural delay came as a shock to the patient’s family, who was already struggling with a difficult diagnosis.

The family, who did not want to be identified, said they pushed the hospital for a faster procedure and were successful. He had a chemo port installed on Jan. 15.

It was a huge relief to the family, but it was the lack of information about that product hold and a potential delay that frustrated them.

“That's not something you would ever anticipate or think about. It's not a very transparent process to the end user, the customer,” said the patient’s son-in-law.

Partners Healthcare, the nonprofit that runs Newton-Wellesley, said in a letter:

“We are taking this situation -- which is impacting thousands of hospitals across the country -- very seriously. We have secured additional gowns to support our hospitals and minimize any impact to our patients. To date, we are not aware of any patient harm associated with this event."

The family considers themselves lucky.

In other parts of the country, like western Pennsylvania, hospitals canceled and rescheduled elective, non-emergency surgeries because of this issue.

There’s no word yet on when the problem will be resolved.