It’s a problem at hospitals that few patients ever hear about: When worn or damaged, mattress covers allow blood and body fluids to seep into the mattress and ooze back out, potentially putting patients at risk of exposure to infectious disease and illness.
Recently, nurses in Labor and Delivery at St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma noted blood on the mattress of a patient who had been discharged. They later pushed a white washcloth l into the mattress cover and blood and body fluids seeped out.
According to FDA guidelines, a compromised mattress should be immediately replaced. At. St. Joseph, the problem of compromised mattresses was first reported Sept. 8, and since then, some beds were replaced and others were patched, which didn’t stop the seepage of bodily fluids.
The Washington State Nurses Association (WSNA), the union that represents the nurses at St. Joseph Medical Center, want to see any beds with patches immediately removed and replaced.
In a complaint filed with the Washington State Department of Health on Oct. 7, WSNA said: “Patching applied to Labor & Delivery mattresses (as a stop gap repair measure) is not secure and is rolling up around the edges… Without a proactive system to address bed/gurney mattresses, compromised beds could be in every department at SJMC, potentially exposing immunocompromised and all patients to infectious blood and body fluids.”
In an email Sept. 20 to a nurse representative at WSNA, the St. Joseph Medical Center human resources director said the facility was using a patching material to fix some of the mattresses, but the hospital ran out of the patching material. The human resources director said new mattresses have been ordered but claimed there is a six- to eight-week backlog for delivery of the new mattresses.
The problem at St. Joseph Medical Center is something that could be happening at other hospitals, and WSNA wants healthcare workers and patients to know this is a serious problem that needs to be addressed immediately.
“This is a patient safety issue that we have been raising the alarm on for two months,” said Jayson Dick, WSNA director of labor strategies. “In order to keep patients and staff safe, any compromised mattresses need to be replaced.”
The FDA issued a safety communication in 2013 alerting health care providers, health care facility staff, and caregivers to safety concerns over compromised mattresses From 2011 through 2016, the FDA said it has received over 700 reports of a hospital bed mattress cover failing to prevent blood or body fluids from leaking into the mattress.