New York Times Reports on Hepatitis C Outbreak at Oklahoma Hospital Where Nurse Anesthetist Reused Needles
The New York Times today reports on the hepatitis C outbreak at Norman Regional Hospital in Norman, Okla. More than 50 patients at the hospital's pain clinic have tested positive for the disease following the announcement last month that a nurse anesthetist there reused needles and syringes. According to Michael Crutcher, state epidemiologist at the Oklahoma Department of Health, the hepatitis C cases represent the "biggest outbreak ... that has taken place as a result of transmission within a health care facility" (Meier, New York Times, 10/10). The hospital last week recommended that the 1,220 patients seen at the clinic between May 1999 and August 2002, the time that nurse anesthetist James Hill worked at the clinic, be tested for the virus (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/3).
AANA Issues Warning
The American Association of Nurse Anesthetists has mailed 33,000 letters to hospital administrators, nurse anesthetists and nursing students nationwide alerting them to the Oklahoma outbreak and reminding them that the reuse of needles is dangerous and can spread disease, even if the needles are inserted into a tube rather than under the patient's skin, as was the case in Oklahoma. Dr. Elliot Greene, associate professor of anesthesiology at Albany Medical College in Albany, N.Y., said studies done in the 1990s indicated that health care workers sometimes reused needles or syringes after inserting them into intravenous tubes. Greene said the findings were "shocking" and indicate a lack of education around the issue. Hill has reported that he did not think reusing needles was an "abnormal procedure" (Trougakos, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 10/9).