293 at risk of HIV, Hepatitis exposure through colonoscopies

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WESTFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Baystate Health says that some 293 patients who had colonoscopies at Baystate Noble Hospital years ago may have been exposed to blood-borne disease such as HIV, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C. According to a news release sent to 22News by Baystate Health spokesperson Ben Craft, the risk is due to improper disinfection procedures with colonoscopes, the instrument used in colonoscopies.

The group of 293 patients received colonoscopies at Noble between June 2012 and April 2013. The patients at risk have been sent notifications by the hospital, so that they can receive screenings. The health system described the risk of infection as being small.

Craft explained the cause of the issue:

“In June 2012 Noble Hospital began using new colonoscopes, which required a different approach to disinfection than instruments used previously at Noble. Due to a failure in training, the disinfection of those endoscopes between procedures did not adequately expose the devices’ single water irrigation channel to high-level disinfection during the last phase of cleaning. This is similar to other, more recent problems with sterilization encountered across the country with endoscopes used for other procedures,” he wrote.

Noble was not part of the Baystate Health system at the time of the exposure, however, hospital president Ronald Bryant says they are very sorry for what happened.

“On behalf of Baystate Noble Hospital and Baystate Health, I apologize to all those affected by this failure in safety,” Bryant said. “The safety of our patients is our very highest priority, and we take full responsibility for our part in allowing these patients to have potentially received unsafe care.”

The hospital has gone through an exhaustive process to identify people who may be at risk. Patients who have not been notified by Baystate Noble Hospital do not have a cause for concern, Craft says.

“Due to the function of the water irrigation channel and the phase of disinfection at which the failure occurred, the risk to patients is very low,” said Dr. Sarah Haessler, infectious disease physician and head epidemiologist for Baystate Health. “However, that risk is not zero, so we’re taking the necessary steps to address these issues and provide patients with the resources they need.”

Craft said that the hospital system has a team in place to ensure proper safety measures are in place in endoscopic procedures, such as colonoscopies.

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