South Dakota Urology Clinic Exposed Patients to DiseasesApr 21, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP Alleged malpractice at the Siouxland Urology Center in Dakota Dunes, South Dakota has likely exposed many thousands of patients to dangerous, deadly blood borne diseases. CNN reports that Siouxland Urology might have exposed nearly 6,000 patients to HIV and hepatitis. As with a variety of other similar contaminations, Siouxland Urology reused single use medical products, potentially passing on serious diseases to other patients.
Siouxland Urology has been ordered to contact about 5,700 of its former patients who were treated at the Center since 2002, said CNN, after a routine inspection there revealed that Siouxland Urology was reusing a variety of medical supplies, including sterile saline bags, tubing, and other cystoscopy supplies. Cystoscopies, explained CNN, are a diagnostic procedure that targets the lower urinary tract. "We witnessed the practice while we were in the facility," said Barb Buhler of the South Dakota Health Department, quoted CNN. Buhler was referring to a January 21 inspection. Siouxland Urology is under a provisional license, said state officials.
South Dakota Department of Health inspectors—who are registered nurses (RNs)—noticed that a saline bag, on a pole in an examining room where a cystoscopy was going to shortly take place, was dated two days prior, according to Bob Stahl, from the South Dakota Department of Health, reported CNN. The RN inspectors questioned the staff who said that “they routinely reused saline bags and tubing,” had been doing so since the clinic’s opening in 2002, and did not understand why reusing one-time use medical supplies presented a problem, said Stahl, who noted that the bags and tubing clearly state “for single use only,” said CNN.
"They used the bags and tubing on multiple patients," Stahl said, quoted CNN, adding that, "It was their standard operating procedure…. They told the inspectors that this was a common practice all over the country. We disagreed and told them this was not a common practice." Reusing such supplies can enable patient bodily fluids to backflow into the saline bags and tubing.
"Siouxland Urology Center informed certain of its patients by U.S. mail that a prior cystoscopy procedure could have potentially exposed them to an infectious disease," its Website said, according to CNN. The clinic’s clients are generally from South Dakota, Iowa, and Nebraska; the clinic is providing free blood tests to its potentially infected patients, said CNN.
In a similar case in which medical equipment was rinsed—not sterilized—shoddy colonoscopies and endoscopies at Veterans Administration facilities have exposed over 10,000 military veterans to HIV and hepatitis B and C following exposure to tainted equipment, with three patients testing positive for HIV, six for hepatitis B, and 19 for hepatitis C. At least one patient consulted with malpractice attorneys and more are expected. The shoddy tests were conducted as far back as five years ago.
HIV and hepatitis B and C are spread by contact with infected body fluids. HIV—the human immunodeficiency virus—is the virus that causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome); AIDS is the final stage of HIV infection. Hepatitis B and C are liver diseases that can lead to cirrhosis or cancer of the liver. Vaccines exist only for hepatitis B. HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B and C can all be fatal.