Two U.K. Hospitals Inform Former Patients of HIV-Positive Health Workers About Possible Risk of HIV Exposure
Approximately 500 former patients of an HIV-positive health worker at the Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust received a letter alerting them that they may have been exposed to the virus, Reuters reports (Reuters, 5/15). Hospital officials said that the staff member, who has received a court order preventing the disclosure of his identity, was diagnosed with HIV last Friday and has "stopped clinical work" (Herbert, London Independent, 5/16). The hospital screened patient records to determine which former patients were "potentially at risk" for HIV exposure and sent a letter to those patients informing them about HIV testing and counseling (BBC News, 5/15). Dr. John Dyet, medical director of the Hull Trust, said that although the incident is "regrettable," the risk of HIV transmission from the worker to patients is "very low." There have been no reported cases of HIV transmission from health care workers to patients in the United Kingdom.
In related news, the Highland Acute Hospitals NHS Trust in Scotland sent a letter to 116 former patients of another HIV-positive health care worker stating that they may have been exposed to the virus (London Independent, 5/16). The employee worked in the obstetrics and gynecology department of Raigmore Hospital for one year beginning in February 1999. Former patients deemed potentially at risk for HIV exposure are being offered counseling and HIV testing (BBC News, 5/15). Derek Bodell, CEO of the U.K. charity National AIDS Trust, said that patients should have "little to fear" if the health care workers were following NHS infection control procedures. He said that there should not be "an overreaction to this situation" in which "the privacy of people working with HIV is removed without just cause" (BBC News, 5/15).