Nova Scotia Health Minister Leo Glavine has identified the problem behind the sterilization problem at Halifax’s Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre, which has caused hundreds of surgeries to be cancelled in recent weeks.

When asked by PC MLA Chris d’Entremont during Question Period, Glavine said the substance on the hospital’s surgical equipment remained a mystery, but received a new briefing shortly afterward.

Speaking to the media later on, Glavine had the answer.

“The black metallic specks are coming from corrosion within the sterilizer,” he said.

Glavine said the hospital’s sterilizing machines, which are 25 to 30 years old, have been depositing specks of an aluminum-iron corrosion on the surgical instruments.

“They will need to be replaced. That is not an option,” Glavine said.

Glavine said the province will get five new sterilization machines, which cost about $100,000 each, though he’s unsure whether they will be bought or leased.

“It is about a five to six week process to get those here,” Glavine said.

In the meantime, surgeries will continue to be cancelled, he said.

But there’s been an improvement: the surgeries are going ahead at the Victoria General Hospital and the Halifax Infirmary at a rate of 65 and 70 per cent, respectively, Glavine said.

That still leaves the rescheduling of more than 300 surgeries have already been cancelled in recent weeks.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Rick Grant