A “break in procedure” has led to a major health scare at Jefferson University Hospital.
Officials say 51 patients who underwent gastrointestinal endoscopies are potentially at risk for several viruses due to a procedural mistake.
Gastro endoscopies are routine procedures in which a fiber-optic scope is placed into a person’s digestive tract to show their stomach, intestines or esophagus. Officials say that a few times during a four-week period between February and March, sterilized forceps that normally get rinsed in fresh water, were rinsed in water that was re-used when it should have been thrown out.
“The rinse water was not discarded and patients were potentially exposed to infection,” said Dr. Geno Merli, the Chief Medical Officer at the Hospital.
The potential transmission risk is from blood born viruses that can live outside the body, including Hepatitis B, Hepatisis C or HIV, according to Hospital officials.
Dr. Merli says he called the patients himself to inform them of the news.
“The hospital is deeply sorry and we apologize for this incident,” he said.
Merli also says however that the risk of the patients contracting the viruses is low.
“Our infectious disease experts say the risk is very, very small,” said Dr. Merli. “In fact the risk is even less than a nurse getting a needle prick accidentally in the hospital.”
The hospital says 48 of the 51 patients underwent tests after being offered free blood work. The tests came back clear, showing no signs of infection. The patients were still advised to undergo follow-up testing however.
“I have to admire them for catching it and informing people,” said Earl Williams, of Center City. “So often we hear about cover-ups and the lack of information.”
Jefferson Hospital performs up to 14,000 gastro endoscopy procedures each year. Hospital officials say sterile procedure practices are being reviewed and the staff is being retrained to make sure a procedural mistake is never made again.