Another case of potential hospital-spread hepatitis has been discovered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. According to the Sun Sentinel, police in that city are looking into a long-time registered nurse who, according to her staffâ€”violated infection-control protocols, with full knowledge. The ongoing situationâ€”over 1,800 patients are believed to have been exposed to the shoddy infection practicesâ€”took place at Broward General Medical Center.
In addition to hepatitis B and C, patients were also likely exposed to HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS. All three pathogens are blood borne in nature.
Police spokesman Sgt. Frank Sousa said the hospital requested the investigation of Qui Lan, 59, said the Sun Sentinel. Officials at the hospital said they learned that Lan was reusing catheter tubing and saline bags on multiple patients, said the Sun Sentinel. The tubing and bags were meant for one-time patient use during cardiac chemical stress tests. According to the Sun Sentinel, to date, there have been no charges filed or victims named.
It remains unknown if Lan knowingly placed thousands of patients at risk or if the scandal is related to negligence on her part, said the Sun Sentinel. An anonymous report led to the investigation in which at least one nurse said Lan understood that the supplies should not be reused. Sun Sentinel explained that the medical supplies deliver saline solution via IV to enable optimum vein performance during stress testing.
“But we still don’t know why she chose to do this,” said, Alice Taylor, chief operating officer of Broward General Medical Center, quoted Sun Sentinel. “This is flagrant disregard of basic nursing principles,” Taylor added.
In the meantime, 1,851 patients believed to have been potentially exposed since 2004, are being notified and asked to undergo blood screening, which the hospital will pay for, said Sun Sentinel. Specialists, including from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are being consulted, the paper added.
This is the most recent in a string of similar incidents in which medical supplies have been tampered with or used in ways that expose countless patients to disease. We have been following the scandals with the Department of Veterans Affairsâ€™ centers in three cities in which colonoscopy and endoscopy equipment were reused without being properly sanitized. To date, noted the Sun Sentinel some 50 veterans have tested positive for blood borne pathogens.
Most recently, a surgical tech who worked out of two Colorado hospitals and hospitals in New York and Texas was charged and sentenced after it was discovered she was swapping syringes containing the narcotic pain reliever Fentanyl with saline after injecting herself. She has tested positive for hepatitis.
Lan, has an active Florida nursing license and a clean record, said the Sun Sentinel. She was suspended on September 8 and resigned on the 9th; the hospital reported her to the Florida Board of Nursing, said the Sun Sentinel, which added that authorities believe Lan is no longer in the United States. CEO of Broward Center CEO, James Thaw, told the paper that the hospital notified patients and arranged for off-site testing in the month before it notified the police.