Wall Street Journal Examines Unsafe Injection Practices That Could Spread HIV, Other Diseases
The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday examined unsafe injection methods sometimes practiced in clinics and hospitals that can spread HIV, hepatitis and other bloodborne diseases. According to the Journal, most health care providers are aware of the risks associated with reusing needles; however, some medical workers do not follow other injection guidelines, such as discarding syringes after each use. If a health worker reuses either a syringe or a needle after administering an injection to someone who has HIV, hepatitis or another disease, they risk transmitting that disease to another patient. In addition, using an unclean needle or syringe to draw out medication from a multiple-dose vial can contaminate the vial itself and put future patients at risk.
According to the Journal, most unsafe injection practices occur at non-hospital facilities, such as specialized centers and clinics, which are not as tightly regulated as hospitals. Evelyn McKnight -- who contracted hepatitis C from a reused syringe and later founded the not-for-profit group Hepatitis Outbreaks National Organization for Reform -- said that health care workers do not "have malicious intent or a desire to shortchange the patient, but they just aren't thinking all the steps through and understanding how they are putting the patient at risk."
After a 2002 survey found that one in every 100 health care workers who administer injections reuse the same syringe or needle on multiple patients, the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists sent thousands of letters to its members warning about the risks involved with such practices. The following year, a series of hepatitis cases occurred as a result of unsafe injection practices in dialysis centers, long-term care facilities and outpatient clinics, according to CDC. Joseph Perz, a CDC injection-safety expert, said that the agency initially viewed these outbreaks as "isolated and unusual incidents," but changed its view as such infections became more frequent in recent years. According to Perz, unsafe injection practices are "now squarely in the mainstream, and we have to make sure the basic safe practices are understood by everyone working in health care."
According to the Journal, CDC next week plans to launch an educational campaign with the slogan "One Needle, One Syringe, Only One Time," to encourage health care workers to follow safety guidelines and inform consumers about how they can protect themselves. The campaign organizers, which include AANA and the Safe Injection Practices Coalition, will test the campaign in Nevada before launching the program nationwide. Marcia Patrick, infection control director for MultiCare Health System and board member of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control, said patients seeking treatment at medical facilities always should ensure that "there are strict protocols for safe injections, and that the staff is following those protocols" (Landro, Wall Street Journal, 2/4).