It’s been fifty years since the medical community embraced disposable syringes. The innovation should have ushered in an age devoid of infections passed through dirty needles. Still, for one reason or another, such infections remain a major problem.
Just in the past month, two large east coast hospitals have had to notify patients of the improper reuse of insulin pens, a practice previously warned against by the FDA and CDC and something both hospitals should have known about. Nevertheless, they reused the pens, changing only the needles between patients and possibly exposing thousands to HIV and Hepatitis infections.
How Common Are Needle Infections?
This isn’t the first such case – nor is it the largest. According to a report from USA Today, since 2001, more than 150,000 patients across the United States have become victims of unsafe injections. Two-thirds of these victims were exposed to the unsafe practices just within the past four years. In all, these issues led to 49 disease outbreaks, including the deadly antibiotic-resistant MRSA and even hepatitis.
Most injections received in hospitals and clinics across the country are safe. Most of the time, doctors and nurses follow proper safety protocol. But it’s that small number of times when they don’t that can spell disaster for patients.
“It’s a huge issue…it makes us crazy,” said the CDC’s associate director for infection control, Michael Bell. “We’re trying to eliminate a range of harms in health care—high level, complex challenges—and we look behind us and these basic, obvious, completely preventable problems are still occurring…it really comes down to a matter of greed, ignorance, or laziness.”
It’s said the official count of 150,000 unsafe injection victims is probably a conservative one—there are likely many, many more. These are only those that were reported to the CDC. Sometimes, a disease transmitted through dirty needles can take several years to arise, making it improbable that it will be traced to the injection.
Neil Fishman, an infectious-disease specialist from the University of Pennsylvania Health System says the problem is a “hidden epidemic” and admits the oversight is “very weak.”
Where Dirty Needle Infections Occur
Clinics and long term care facilities are more likely to make mistakes in proper needle usage than large hospitals. But that doesn’t mean you are risk free when receiving injections at a hospital. You can reduce your risk by always asking if the needle being used in your skin or being used in your IV is a new one.
The medical malpractice attorneys of Baker & Gilchrist understand the risks you assume when you go in for medical treatment. But they know that mistakes like this aren’t just par for the course. When you are the victim of any medical error, you deserve justice. Contact our offices today to discuss your case and how we might be able to help.