First & Second NY hospital warns patients of possible HIV infection from
Veterans' hospital exposes hundreds to HIV and hepatitis
Reuters / Jose Luis Gonzalez
A New York veteran’s hospital may have exposed more than 700 of its patients with HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C by mistakenly reusing its insulin pens, which are used to inject diabetes patients with a hormone produced by the pancreas.
Patients at the Buffalo Veterans Administration Center are now at risk of acquiring the deadly diseases because of the mistakes made by hospital staff, who didn’t always label the insulin pens for individual patients and therefore reused them on others.
“Although the pen needles were always changed, an insulin pen may have been used on more than one patient,” VA spokeswoman Evangeline Conley told the Associated Press. The reuse of the pens went on for nearly two weeks, putting all patients who received the injections between Oct. 19 and Nov. 1 at risk for the deadly infections. The procedural errors were not discovered until the conduct of a routine pharmacy inspection in November.
Once the hospital discovered the error, it took immediate action to avoid reusing the pens, and began offering free blood tests to any of the patients who might have been contaminated.
Rep. Chris Collis, R-NY, said that based on his conversation with Dr. Robert A. Petzel, undersecretary for health at the Department of Veteran Affairs, the risk of an HIV or hepatitis infection is very low.
“But it’s not out of the realm of possibility, and that’s why they’re testing everyone,” Collins told the Buffalo News. In order to become contaminated, an infected patient’s bodily fluid would have had to flow back into the insulin pens. The risk would have been greater if the needles themselves had been reused.
“That would have been a grave concern,” Collins said.
Even if the chance of infection is low, any risk for HIV or hepatitis is too high of a risk. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-NY, was shocked when he heard about the reuse of the insulin pens and does not believe it should be so easily dismissed.
“What has happened can only be described as the grossest of irresponsible and dangerous behavior,” he said. “The VA must immediately deal with the health of those that were victimized, and promptly launch a top-to-bottom investigation to root out how this happened and tell us what is being done to prevent it from ever happening again, in Buffalo or elsewhere in the country.”
A similar case of unsanitary hospital procedures occurred in June 2010, when a Missouri VA hospital exposed more than 1,800 veterans to both HIV and hepatitis. Patients who had visited the John Cochran VA Medical Center in St. Louis for dental work were treated using dental instruments that had been used by others and not been cleaned properly.
“This is absolutely unacceptable,” then-Rep. Russ Carnahan told CNN. “No veteran who has served and risked their life for this great nation should have to worry about their personal safety when receiving much-needed healthcare services from a Veterans Administration hospital.”
But with the most recent case in Buffalo, veterans are once again facing the chance of acquiring HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C due to unhygienic practices.
Second NY hospital warns nearly 2,000 patients of possible HIV infection from insulin pens
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A medical assistant holds an insulin pen administered to diabetes patients (AFP Photo)
A hospital in New York State has notified 1,915 patients that they may have been exposed to HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C – days after another hospital in NY admitted making the same mistake - through reusing insulin pens, used by diabetics.
Olean General Hospital is mailing 1,915 patients who received insulin between November 2009 and last week and advising them to have a blood test, although the risk of infection of HIV or hepatitis B and C is very low, a hospital official told
Staff at Olean General said they ordered the action after a review carried out at a nearby veteran’s hospital in Buffalo found that more than 700 patients may have been exposed to the same trio of deadly diseases over a two year period when they also may have used multiuse insulin pens on more than one person, though only intended for use on a single patient.
Olean General had not identified any specific patients who had been infected, but were not taking any chances
“Interviews with nursing staff indicated that the practice of using one patient’s insulin pen for other patients may have occurred on some patients. Regardless, to the extent there may be a chance, however remote, that any patient was provided insulin from an insulin pen other than their own, Olean General Hospital has decided to be proactive and aggressive with respect to notification of our patients,”
said Timothy Finan, president and chief executive of Upper Allegheny Health System, the parent company of Olean hospital.
Although the needles were changed in the insulin pens each time they were used, there was still a risk of infection because insulin stored in the cartridge could have become contaminated through the backflow of blood.
There was a clinical alert from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last year after continued reports of the practice.
US federal health agencies have been warning against sharing insulin pens for several years. An alert was issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in March 2009 after more than 2,000 patients may have been contaminated between 2009 and 2010 at a Texas hospital.
A further case of unsanitary hospital procedure occurred in Missouri in June 2010, also at a Veterans Administration (VA) hospital, where 1,800 veterans were exposed to HIV and hepatitis after being treated with dental instruments which had been used by other patients and not properly cleaned.
“No veteran who has served and risked their life for this great nation should have to worry about their personal safety when receiving much needed healthcare services from a Veterans Administration hospital,” then-Republican Senator Russ Carnahan told CNN at the time.
The websites for the FDA and CDC both clearly state the dangers of infection in using insulin pens on multiple people
Responding to the admission last week of potential contamination at the VA Center in Buffalo, Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) said the reuse of insulin pens was shocking and should not be so easily dismissed.
“What has happened can only be described as the grossest of irresponsible and dangerous behavior. The VA must immediately deal with the health of those that were victimized, and promptly launch a top-to-bottom investigation to root out how this happened and tell us what is being done to prevent it happening again, in Buffalo or elsewhere in the country,”the senator said in a press release on January 15.
this is down right insane and unbelievable and what has to happen, before this is stopped or someone die's
Can they not actually take care of these situations so no one is exposed to H.I.V