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article imageVA hospital may have infected veterans with HIV and hepatitis

By Laura Trowbridge     Jul 14, 2010 in Health
The House Committee on Veterans' Affairs is looking into safety lapses at the John Cochran VA Medical Center in Missouri.
The hospital in St. Louis, Missouri, sent letters to 1,812 veterans telling them they could have contracted hepatitis B, hepatitis C and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) after having visited the medical center for dental work.
Missouri Democrat Rep. Russ Carnahan said: "This is absolutely unacceptable. No veteran who has served and risked their life for this great nation should have to worry about their personal safety when receiving much needed healthcare services from a Veterans Administration hospital."
Late last month, Carnahan said that he was calling for an investigation and had sent a letter to President Obama about the issue. Yesterday, lawmakers held a hearing on the matter.
According to CNN, Dr. Gina Michael, association chief of staff at the hospital, told a CNN affiliate that "some dental technicians broke protocol by hand-washing tools before putting them in cleaning machines."
These instruments are only to be cleaned in the specialized cleaning machines.
The failure to clean the dental instruments properly began in February 2009 and went on until March 2010.
For those veterans who may have become infected with life-threatening diseases from the safety lapse exposure, the hospital has set up a special clinic and education centers to help them.
Carnahan said: "I can only imagine the horror and anger our veterans must be feeling after receiving this letter. They have every right to be angry. So am I."
Carnahan said he feels more should be done by the hospital for the veterans, and those responsible for the saftey lapses should be disciplined.
Another hospital has recently come under fire for safety laspses, as well.
Last month, Palomar Hospital in San Diego, California, "sent certified letters to 3,400 patients who underwent colonoscopy and other similar procedures, informing the patients that there may be a potential of infection from items used and reused in the procedures."
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