Patients angry at York Hospital’s response to infections

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GETTYSBURG, Pa. - One of the patients affected by bacteria exposure at York Hospital says he wants more answers than he's getting.

Last month, hospital officials said 1,300 patients who had open heart surgeries between October 2011 and July 2015 has been exposed to the bacteria because equipment wasn't properly cleaned.

The CDC found that eight people were diagnosed with NTM infections caused by bacteria on the heater-cooler devices used during operations. Four, who had other medical conditions, as well, died.

Bill Acker of Gettysburg had surgery to replace a valve in his heart in March of 2014. He received a letter notifying him he could be at risk of infection.

"I'm concerned about it because I have it," says Acker. "And I don't want to die after I've survived the surgery, from something like this."

Acker says he wants to know why staff were not following the correct cleaning protocol.

"From what I understand no one was disciplined no one was terminated," says Acker. "I don't even know who's responsible for this."

The company that manufactures the affected devices, the Sorin Group, says they warned the hospital about cleaning procedures back in July of 2014. A hospital spokesman says they haven't been able to confirm the hospital received that letter.

The spokesman says there was another warning that came from a notification system in August of 2014.

"This communication was not fully shared within our organization in August 2014," wrote spokesman Brett Marcy in a statement. "We are investigating that communication breakdown to learn how and when it occurred and to ensure that it will not happen again anywhere in our organization."

The statement continues: "We know that the news of this potential risk of infection is concerning to our open-heart patients, and we profoundly regret any distress that it creates for them and their families. We are deeply committed to ensuring these friends and neighbors have all the information, care and treatment they need regarding this issue. This has included adding a full-time nurse navigator to help these patients with their care needs related to this issue.

As always, the safety, health and well-being of our patients is our highest priority. We remain committed to providing safe, compassionate and exceptional care to our patients and the communities we serve."

The NTM infection can take years to present itself and be identified by doctors, so patients now have another worry to keep in mind.

"I'm frustrated and I'm angry," says Charla Acker, who praises the surgeons who helped her husband. "They do an amazing job, and then something this simple takes everything potentially away."

"It just seems to me that I didn't come this far to then end up not living because of something like this, which is so ridiculous," says Bill Acker.

York Hospital directs patients to their website for more information.