Canada: 170 Patients Tested for HIV and Hepatitis
November 5, 2010
Health officials are urging 173 patients who underwent endoscopy procedures at the Hinton Healthcare Center to get tested for HIV and hepatitis after it was discovered that an employee there reused syringes, possibly contaminating medication.
Dr. Kathryn Koliaska, medical health officer for Alberta Health Services' northern zone, said the investigation centers on procedures performed between March 1 and Sept. 15, 2010.
The syringes were used to add sedation medication to IV lines instead of directly into patients' bloodstreams. While a fresh syringe was used for each patient, if a patient needed multiple doses of the sedative, the syringe was reused to take a second dose from a multi-dose vial.
That is where contamination can occur, explained Koliaska: Blood can backflow through the IV line and into the syringe. When the syringe is then refilled with medicine from the multi-dose vial, the medication can become contaminated by the blood.
"The risk is extremely low, but it's the right thing to do the testing," said Koliaska. Though she declined to provide any details about the health care worker at the center of the investigation, Koliaska said a co-worker noticed and reported the mistakes.
"The practice was stopped immediately," said Koliaska, noting that the health care worker was not aware his or her actions could contaminate the vial. "Education is ongoing," she said. A new education and awareness campaign will launch this month to ensure all syringe policies are followed, she added.
As of Wednesday, health officials had contacted 146 endoscopy patients, and 116 had been tested. Patients seeking additional information should telephone HealthLink at 1-866-408-5465.
11.05.2010; Jodie Sinnema
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