Safe Needle Law to Take Effect Tomorrow Amid Doubts About Enforcement
While a new federal law (HR 5178) requiring hospitals to use safer needles to reduce the number of needle injuries goes into effect tomorrow, "[p]ublic health advocates, union leaders and injured workers are concerned over how quickly hospitals ... will switch" to safer devices, Newsday reports. In November, former President Clinton signed the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act, which mandates that hospitals use safer needles or "alternative devices to minimize injuries" to health care workers. In addition, the measure requires hospitals to "involve rank and file health care workers in selecting the new devices," and hospitals must "maintain a log of all needlestick injuries" (Ramirez, Newsday, 4/16). However, according to the American Nurses Association, only 15% of hospitals nationwide have "adopted safer needles" so far. And the AP/Houston Chronicle reports that the new law carries no "enforcement teeth" as it "only will reinforce" current federal law that "sets safety standards for needles and the prevention of bloodborne illnesses at health care facilities" (AP/Houston Chronicle, 4/12). Joel Shufro, director of the New York Committee for Occupational Health, said, "There is concern that the law won't be implemented. Unless you have aggressive enforcement, this law just becomes another piece of paper." Newsday reports that several New York City hospitals have begun test projects "with different types of needles to determine which works best." According to CDC statistics, health care workers incur roughly 400,000 needle injuries every year, 2,000 of which result in hepatitis C infection (Newsday, 4/16).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.