January 21, 2009
Health officials say there is no evidence that a small number of former patients who tested positive for hepatitis B, hepatitis C or HIV contracted the infections from syringes improperly reused by health workers at High Prairie Health Complex.
The tests were ordered in late October on 1,381 former patients after it was discovered that some staff routinely reused syringes to inject medication into intravenous lines. The hospital no longer reuses syringes on IV lines because of a slight chance that blood or contaminated medication could be present in the IV line and be transmitted to the syringe, thereby infecting other patients.
Three percent of patients tested positive for hepatitis B, hepatitis C or HIV, which is "about the rate we would expect to find of those diseases in the community anyway," said Deb Guerette, spokeswoman for Peace Country Health. "It's a known existing rate."
Officials investigated whether any of the HIV- or hepatitis-positive patients had undergone procedures on the same day. The patients tested had received endoscopies between March 2004 and October 2008, or dental surgery with medication delivered via IV since 1990. A total of 1,270 former patients were contacted, and 1,000 were tested. All the positive patients were in the hospital at different times, indicating "there hasn't been an identified link between any infection and procedures at the facility," said Guerette.
"Just because they have a positive test does not mean they have the disease," Guerette said, referring to hepatitis B. "They may have been immunized and just have antibodies."