The Law Offices of John Phebus

Nurse may have spread hepatitis by reusing syringes

Arizona readers know how important it is for hospitals to use sterile instruments. However, a Texas nurse may have infected four patients with hepatitis by reusing syringes, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2015, the Texas Department of State Health Services was notified after someone noticed the nurse leaving a used syringe near a computer. An investigation by federal, state and local public health officials discovered that the nurse had been reusing prefilled saline syringes to flush the IVs of patients. She apparently believed it was safe to do so because no fluids were drawn into the syringe between flushes.

In response to the discovery, the hospital offered free hepatitis and HIV screenings to 392 living patients who were treated by the nurse from April 2014 until October 2015. Sixty-seven percent of those patients were given an initial screening, and 46 percent received a followup test six months later. Two patients were found to have the hepatitis C virus, and two were found to have the hepatitis B virus. No HIV infections were discovered. One of the patients was infected with a rare type of hepatitis C, an infection another patient admitted to the unit on the same day was known to have. Investigators believe this means the infection was likely caused by the nurse's reuse of saline syringes. The sources of the other three infections were not verified.

Hospitals have a duty to ensure all their medical staff understand and practice basic infection control practices. A patient who has been harmed by the negligent actions of a medical professional could seek compensation by having the assistance of an attorney in filing a hospital negligence lawsuit against the responsible parties.

Source: Pharmacy Practice News, "Reusing Syringes to Flush IVs Transmitted HCV, maybe HBV", Marie Rosenthal, March 21, 2017

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