Australia — Defence Health Advice regarding deployment to Middle East Area

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 www.defence.gov.au/health 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 

Press release
Min­is­te­r­i­al Sup­port and Pub­lic Affairs,
Depart­ment of Defence,
Can­ber­ra, Australia 

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