293 Patients in Massachusetts might have been exposed to HIV, Hepatitis

By Cheri Cheng - 23 Jan '16 11:21AM

A hospital in Massachusetts has been contacting nearly 300 patients who could have been exposed to HIV and hepatitis B and C.

According to the reports, from June 11, 2012 through to April 17, 2013, Baystate Noble Hospital performed a total of 293 colonoscopies with scopes that were not properly disinfected after each use.

"On behalf of Baystate Noble Hospital and Baystate Health, I apologize to all those affected by this failure in safety," said Ronald Bryant, the hospital's president, reported by FOX 61. "The safety of our patients is our very highest priority, and we take full responsibility for our part in allowing these patients to have potentially received unsafe care."

The hospital first noticed the issue in 2013 after it started using new colonoscopes that did not have the same disinfection process as the scopes that the hospital was using before.

The hospital realized that "the disinfection of those endoscopes between procedures did not adequately expose the devices' single water irrigation channel to high-level disinfection during the last phase of cleaning" and began taking steps to address the issue.

The hospital, however, was not notified of the risks of HIV and hepatitis exposure with using the old scopes until December 2015, when the Massachusetts Department of Public Health alerted them. Risk of infection is very low.

"Due to the function of the water irrigation channel and the phase of disinfection at which the failure occurred, the risk to patients is very low," Dr. Sarah Haessler, an infectious-disease doctor and Baystate's head epidemiologist, explained. "However, that risk is not zero, so we're taking the necessary steps to address these issues and provide patients with the resources they need."

On January 20, the hospital sent out letters to the patients to inform them to come in and get tested for the blood-borne illnesses at no extra costs. Patients who have not received a letter but believe that they could be at risk should call 413-794-8955.

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