Oklahoma Health Department Report Finds Nurse Anesthetist Reused Needles Among Patients
James Hill, a nurse anesthetist working at a Norman, Okla., Regional Hospital pain management clinic, "regularly" reused needles and syringes among "at least" 15 patients per day at the clinic, according to a report released on Tuesday by the Oklahoma Department of Health, the Washington Times reports. The health department and the Oklahoma Board of Nursing are investigating the contamination of needles that led to hepatitis C infections among six patients at the clinic (Washington Times, 9/12). Approximately 350 additional clinic patients who were seen between Dec. 31 and Aug. 19 are being tested for hepatitis and HIV. The report states that prior to June 2002, Hill reused needles and syringes while injecting patients with anesthetics that were given before the patients received spinal block injections from Dr. Jerry Lewis, a pain management specialist at the hospital who was Hill's physician sponsor. Hill has discontinued the practice of reusing needles and is not currently practicing medicine. Lewis and Hill no longer have staff privileges at Norman Regional Hospital (Killackey, Daily Oklahoman, 9/11). On Tuesday, Norman resident Bill Lamb filed suit against Norman Regional Hospital, Lewis and 10 unnamed health workers alleging that Lamb and other patients at a pain management clinic were exposed to hepatitis C as a result of "negligence and breaches in standards of care" at the hospital's clinic. The suit requests compensation for "mental pain and suffering, physical pain and suffering, expenses, loss of earnings and temporary and permanent disability" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/11). Lewis has denied the allegations, and a statement issued by his office Monday said that "[t]he problem did not originate from the manner in which Lewis performed any of the procedures" (Daily Oklahoman, 9/11).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.