New York State Health Department Asks Hospital to Notify Patients of Possible Hepatitis C Exposure
The New York State Department of Health has requested that North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y., notify all former heart surgery patients who may have been exposed to hepatitis C by a surgeon infected with the virus, Newsday reports. The policy clarification comes after the state consulted with federal health officials (Rabin, Newsday, 3/30). Last week health officials discovered that a cardiac surgeon at the hospital who tested positive for hepatitis C in August may have transmitted the disease to seven of his patients following open heart surgery. At that time, officials said that they were conducting "retrospective work and deciding exactly who should be notified" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/28). North Shore said it would create an outreach program to find patients who received treatment from the surgeon as far back as 1993 (Newsday, 3/30). The first case of hepatitis C among the surgeon's patients was reported in 1993, and the doctor has treated more than 3,000 people since then (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/28). Dennis Dowling, executive director of the hospital, said, "The health and well-being of our patients has always been the primary goal of North Shore University Hospital. The hospital has sought out infectious disease experts specializing in hepatitis C to help us coordinate the safest and most appropriate manner to provide information and testing to patients." Newsday reports that state health officials will review the letter the hospital intends to send to former patients (Newsday, 3/30).
Expert Says Doctor Should Stop Performing Heart Surgery
Meanwhile, Janine Jagger, director of the International Health Care Worker Safety Center at the University of Virginia, said that it is "unjustifiable" that the surgeon is continuing to practice open-heart surgery, Newsday reports. North Shore has said that the surgeon has modified his surgical practices to decrease the risk of transmitting the virus to his patients, but experts say that needle sticks, glove tears and other accidents are "common" in operating rooms. Jagger, who has co-invented six safety needle devices, said that there are many possibilities for a surgeon to infect a patient with hepatitis C. Sharp medical devices can "easily" puncture latex gloves, gloves sometimes fail and surgeons may have an unrelated cut that bleeds into a surgical wound, Jagger and other physicians said. "Open-heart surgery is one of the bloodiest types of surgery, and one that involves a tremendous amount of friction on the gloves and hands. You can't get much more hands-on than that," Jagger stated. She said that patients planning to undergo surgery at North Shore should ask their surgeon to sign a statement affirming that he or she is not infected with hepatitis C, hepatitis B or HIV (Rabin, Newsday, 4/2).