Dirty Hospital Equipment
May Have Exposed 100s
To HIV And Hep-C
CBC News
HALIFAX - Nova Scotia's health minister wants answers from the province's largest hospital after reports that 277 patients may have been accidentally exposed to dangerous viruses such as HIV and Hepatitis C.
Examination equipment not sterilized properly. The patients were all tested with endoscopes at the Queen Elizabeth Health Sciences Centre between Dec. 10 and 23. During that time, the equipment was not sterilized properly.
Endoscopes are long, tubular devices used to look inside a patient's body. They can be introduced orally or rectally. After each procedure, the endoscope is scrubbed and then placed in a disinfecting machine. In this case, a filter on the machine was installed improperly.
Dr. Jonathan Love, a gastroenterologist at Queen Elizabeth Health Sciences Centre, says that some bacteria did get through. "There were a few bugs, miniscule amounts, but that was enough to tell us that we're not doing as good a job at this particular time as we expect and want for our patients," said Dr. Love.
Dr. Love is one of the doctors who did the procedure and decided to notify the patients involved. He says the scope is thoroughly cleaned by hand before being placed in the disinfection machine. And despite the filter problem, the scope is still exposed to high-levels of disinfectant. The hospital says the problem has been corrected, and it stresses the risk of infection is very small.
The hospital did send warning letters to the potentially-exposed patients. About 20 patients have contacted the hospital. Dr. Love says the hospital had an obligation to inform the patients.
"We felt it important to include those patients in the decision-making process of whether thay want to be tested for any of these other potential viruses, which some people are worried about," says Dr. Love.
The hospital is offering to test any patients who are concerned they might be infected. Health Minister Jamie Muir said Wednesday that the public can be assured that proper sterilization procedures are being followed.
The New England Journal of Medicine reported a case two years ago in which a French couple contracted Hep-C after they both had a routine endoscopy of the colon.


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