http://www.canada.com/victoriatimescolo ... 3c059a7b97
Hundreds face HIV tests after Alberta hospital error
Equipment not cleaned according to standards
CanWest News Service
Saturday, April 14, 2007
EDMONTON--About 550 patients who had tonsillectomies, scopes involving biopsies or other operating-room procedures at a hospital in Vegreville, Alta. are being contacted by phone to get tested for HIV and hepatitis after an equipment sterilization scare in March.
Another 2,300 patients who had less risky procedures done -- such as stitches for open wounds, where needle drivers or forceps that require sterilization were used and may have touched the raw skin -- are also being contacted by mail, requesting they get their blood tested at one of three health centres in the area.
"I want to emphasize here that the risk to patients is very low," Dr. Gerhard Benade, the medical officer of health for East Central Health region, wrote in a progress report released yesterday.
"I emphasize again that the public should not be unduly alarmed about this process or the number of people being offered blood testing. While the risk is very low, we cannot guarantee there is no risk. That is why we are contacting all former patients who may have been exposed, no matter how small the risk, to offer them blood testing."
Previous news reports said about 80 people had been identified for testing.
Once patients are tested, results will be available in about two weeks.
Benade closed the equipment sterilization room at St. Joseph's General Hospital March 16 because scopes, used to examine organs inside the body, weren't being cleaned or sterilized according to standards.
Although no blood or human tissue was seen on the equipment, the potential for contamination was there since the equipment is consecutively used in different patients.
Benade also closed the hospital to new admissions because of excessively high rates of MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant superbug that can infect and kill patients.
He sent a letter to the hospital's new board of management April 9, advising he would consider re-opening the hospital to admissions after the board gives him clear assurances it has effective prevention control measures set up at the hospital.