A hospital in greater South Bend, Indiana, revealed earlier this week that 1,182 of its patients may have been exposed to the hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV viruses by potentially contaminated surgical equipment. Goshen Hospital, which is in Elkhart County, said that patients undergoing surgery at the hospital between April and September of this year are in the group at risk.

Goshen Hospital released a statement explaining that its technicians failed to complete a necessary step in a multi-step surgical instrument sterilization process in a “limited number of cases,” which raises the risk of infection even though other sterilization methods were completed.

“The surgical instruments in question were still treated with other usual chemical disinfection and machine sterilization processes which include a wide margin of safety; however, we are not able to determine if such instruments were completely sterile prior to use,” the hospital said in a statement. “This action has the potential of exposing a limited number of patients to the hepatitis C virus, hepatitis B virus and human immunodeficiency virus.”

The hospital did not explain what sterilization procedure was skipped.

Hepatitis B and C are caused by contact with a person or blood infected with the viruses and can develop into chronic conditions putting individuals at risk for life-threatening liver disease and even liver cancer. Approximately one out of every eight persons infected with the hepatitis C virus develops a serious chronic infection.

The HIV virus can lead to development of AIDS.

Goshen Hospital said although it believes the risk of infection to be “extremely low,” it sent letters notifying all potentially affected patients and is offering them free testing for the viruses at a “convenient” location.

Infections are a common consequence of hospital negligence and malpractice, which is blamed for the deaths of an estimated 100,000 hospital patients in the U.S. every year. Improper sterilization practices and unsanitary equipment are significant contributors to these issues.