Kaiser Permanente Asks Some Patients To Undergo Hepatitis Tests After Possible Exposure at South Sacramento Hospital
Oakland-based HMO Kaiser Permanente on Monday sent letters to 1,331 patients who had undergone gastroenterology procedures -- endoscopy, colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy -- at its South Sacramento facility between Jan. 19 and April 15, to notify them that their physicians may have used "contaminated instruments" and that the patients should be tested for hepatitis within two weeks, the Sacramento Bee reports. In addition, lung patients who had bronchoscopies during that time period are being tested for tuberculosis and other infections. Patients were asked to receive an initial hepatitis test to screen for those who have a previous history with the disease, and other patients will be required to take follow-up tests in three months and again in six months. Dr. Anvar Velgi, chief of infectious disease at South Sacramento, called for the hepatitis tests after technicians discovered that two machines used to sterilize scopes used in the procedures were partially clogged and may not have fully decontaminated the instruments. The machines are serviced every three months and are used to sterilize instruments only after the scopes have been manually cleaned, Velgi said.
"We don't expect any positive results, but we just felt compelled to do this," Velgi said. Although he said the hospital acted on the problem in a "very aggressive" manner after consulting other facilities that had previously faced similar issues, some patients "expressed anger that they did not hear about the potential problem until two weeks after it was discovered," the Bee reports. Kaiser's machines, which are less than three years old, now will be examined every 30 days instead of every three months, Velgi said, adding that the hospital is retraining its physicians and nurses in sterilization procedures. Kaiser also will inspect similar machines used to sterilize equipment at other facilities (Griffith, Sacramento Bee, 4/29).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.