LONDON, March 2 (UPI) -- A British medical official says a shortage of sterile equipment means an estimated 5,000 patients a year don't receive timely medical operations.
British Orthopedic Association official Andrew Thomas said external groups responsible for cleaning the medical equipment have been returning the tools that haven't been properly sterilized and occasionally broken, The Observer reported Sunday.
"Around 5,000 patients a year turn up at the hospital expecting to be operated on but are told before they make it to the operating theater that their procedure can't happen because the hospital doesn't have the instruments," Thomas said of the alarming trend.
The improperly cleaned instruments have led to surgical delays which place patients at risk, the British newspaper reported.
The medical dilemma was found by a recent Association for Perioperative Practice survey and comes as increasingly more hospitals are sending their equipment to outside firms for cleaning.
The Observer said the outside firms were initially used due to concerns that hospital superbugs would prevent proper sterilization.