NY Hospital In HIV Scare Over Insulin Pens

NY Hospital In HIV Scare Over Insulin Pens

A New York hospital is notifying almost 2,000 of its patients that they may have been exposed to HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C from the misuse of insulin pens.

Olean General Hospital is the second hospital in the western New York area to make such an announcement this month.

Only one week ago, the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Buffalo revealed that more than 700 of its patients may have been exposed to HIV and other blood-borne infections because of the error.

The insulin pens, used in both hospitals between November 2009 and January 16, 2013, were designed to be used more than once, but only on the same patient.

However, "interviews with nursing staff indicated that the practice of using one patient's insulin pen for other patients may have occurred on some patients", said Timothy Finan, president and chief executive of Upper Allegheny Health System, the parent company of Olean Hospital.

The pen needles were always changed after each use, said the hospital in a news release.

But a small risk of infection remained because a tiny amount of blood could have flowed backwards during each injection and contaminated the insulin in the pen.

According to Olean Hospital officials, the decision to notify patients of an "extremely small" risk of infection from insulin pen re-use was triggered by an internal review conducted after the Veterans Affairs Hospital discovered that multi-use pens may have been re-used on different patients.

Mr Finan added that no Olean patient has been identified as a definite recipient of an injection from another patient's pen and no cases of infection are known to exist.

"Regardless, to the extent there may be a chance, however remote, that any patient was provided insulin from an insulin pen other than their own, Olean General Hospital has decided to be proactive and aggressive with respect to notification of our patients," the hospital said in a release.

Olean Hospital is no longer using the pens and is sending letters to patients inviting them for blood screening.