Hundreds of kidney patients on Vancouver Island and around British Columbia (BC) will need HIV and hepatitis B and C testing following malfunctions detected May 26 in dialysis machines at Royal Jubilee Hospital. All 40 Baxter Aurora machines at the hospital and those at other Vancouver Island centers were checked, and 10 were found to have blood contamination, nephrologist Dr. Greg Ganz told a Tuesday news conference. Machine parts found to have blood contamination were immediately changed, he added.

Medical microbiologist Dr. Pamela Kibsey said a series of filters and barriers within the machine make the risk for blood contamination slight. "But, as we have discovered blood in the inside of some of our machines, there is a very small possibility that there is a two-way flow from the machine back to the patient," she cautioned. "It is entirely possible that a virus such as hepatitis B could stay alive and be able to transmit to another patient within seven to 10 days," said Kibsey. Patients typically use the machines within 20 minutes of each other.

Around 300 people who underwent dialysis at Royal Jubilee will be screened for blood-borne infections for the next six months and possibly up to one year. Ganz said patients coming for dialysis this week are being handed letters, and doctors are on-hand to answer questions.

The BC Renal Agency, which coordinates dialysis, has contacted other provincial health authorities that use Baxter machines. Health Services Ministry spokesperson Michelle Stewart said "a small number of the overall machines" have been found to have a similar malfunction. "We are letting Health Canada know because it's an emerging issue, but we don't yet know what action they might take to alert the other provinces," said Stewart.

Baxter spokesperson Cindy Resman said the company is working closely with Royal Jubilee. Baxter manufactured about 30 percent of the 622 dialysis machines in use in the province.