An estimated 293 colonoscopy patients at Baystate Noble Hospital in Westfield, Massachusetts, may have been exposed to potentially-life threatening diseases like HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C due to improper disinfection procedures, according to several news articles and a statement released by the hospital.
Baystate Noble Hospital notified 293 patients on Jan. 22 who underwent colonoscopies at Noble Hospital between June 2012 and April 2013 that they could be "at risk of having been exposed to blood-borne pathogens during their procedure," according to an article published by the news website, Masslive.com. In particular, Baystate notified the 293 patients "that they should be screened for hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS," according to the article.
The same article included a statement issued by Baystate on Jan. 22 about the colonoscopies. In Baystate's news release, Baystate Medical Center's head epidemiologist, Dr. Sarah D. Haessler, discussed the risk of infection to patients who underwent colonoscopies at Baystate Noble Hospital during the 11-month period in 2012 and 2013:
"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. 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."
Improperly sterilized medical instruments used during colonoscopies have been linked to drug-resistant infections and patient fatalities in many hospitals nationwide, including 2 deaths at UCLA hospital in California, according to the Los Angeles Times.
In particular, a nationwide study found that "biological dirt" from people's colons was left on 15 percent of reusable endoscopes inserted into people's rectums, according to another Los Angeles Times article. The nationwide study was conducted after authorities learned that thousands of patients nationwide underwent colonoscopies at hospitals that failed to properly clean instruments used during colonoscopies.
And worst of all, many hospitals nationwide might not even realize just how widespread the problem is due to deadly bacteria found on medical instruments that have not been properly sterilized, according to an article published last year by USA Today, which reported that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has failed to offer guidance to hospitals nationwide about this issue.
The recent news at Baystate Noble Hospital comes less than a year after a similar health scare in Hartford, Connecticut. Last March, more than 281 colonoscopy patients at Hartford Hospital were notified that they may have been exposed to drug-resistant E. coli due to improperly cleaned medical instruments used during endoscopic procedures, according to another Masslive.com article.
Hospital Errors a Top Cause of Death in U.S.
Hospital errors remain one of the leading causes of death nationwide. Specifically, errors made by physicians, nurses and other medical professionals at hospitals are the third leading cause of death nationwide, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 440,000 people each year, according to a nationwide study conducted in 2013.
An experienced medical malpractice attorneys knows hospital negligence also remains one of the most common causes of patient injuries and fatalities in hospitals nationwide. That's why it's critical that hospitals properly train medical professionals how to clean medical devices in order to avoid potentially-fatal infections caused by contaminated medical devices and other surgical mistakes.