Clinton Signs Bill for ‘Safer’ Medical Devices
Ending the "decades-long battle" for federal protections against "deadly" needle sticks, President Clinton on Monday approved the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act, a bill requiring medical facilities nationwide to use "safer" medical devices, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Under the legislation, health care facilities must provide employees with syringes that retract, blunt or cover needles after use; directly involve employees in selecting the safety needles used; and maintain a "detailed" record of needle injuries to help researchers develop better preventive measures. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration will enforce the needle safety law, which will take effect 90 days after Labor Secretary Alexis Herman publishes the new regulations in the Federal Register. Experts predict that the act will help save the lives of thousands of nurses, doctors and other health professionals who contract HIV, hepatitis C and other "potentially lethal" viruses from contaminated needles -- each year. According to studies, safer needles could eliminate up to 80% of the estimated 800,000 needle injuries that occur in the United States annually. Big Win for Unions For labor unions, which have campaigned for federal protections since the 1980s, passage of the needle safety bill marked a "major victory." Andrew Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, the nation's largest health care union, said, "It's amazing that a dream to protect health care workers came true today at the Oval Office today. There are moments when democracy works and the people are heard" (Holding/Carlsen, San Francisco Chronicle, 11/7). He added, "This bill will save the lives of thousands of health care workers. This is a historic day" (SEIU release, 11/6). Praising Clinton for supporting the "groundbreaking" legislation, American Nurses Association President Mary Foley said, "Nurses across the nation are rejoicing today. ... This legislation will save countless lives" (ANA release, 11/6). The American Hospital Association also expressed its approval for the measure (San Francisco Chronicle, 11/7).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.