PALO ALTO: Technician Arrested for Reusing Syringes
A California health care worker who admitted she reused needles at a Palo Alto blood-drawing station was arrested yesterday and charged with several felonies, the San Jose Mercury News reports. The incident, which was first reported last spring, "triggered state legislation" that tightened a 25-year-old training and eduction law for phlebotomists. Elaine Giorgi was incarcerated in the Santa Clara County Jail on five felony counts of suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, seven felony counts of failing to properly dispose of medical waste and a misdemeanor charge of falsifying medical records. Police said her bail was set at $25,000. Last March, a co-worker at the blood-drawing station -- operated by SmithKline Beecham Clinical Laboratories -- noticed Giorgi "washing disposable syringes in a sink." According to court documents, Giorgi washed "butterfly" needles -- which are made to stabilize the needle when poking small veins -- with water and hydrogen peroxide, but provided no explanation of why she reused the needles. A co-worker indicated that Giorgi appeared concerned about the costs of the syringes. The co-worker recalls Giorgi saying, "You use them two or three times. We don't want to have problems with the company. The butterflies are expensive." Court documents also state that Giorgi masked mistakes by mislabeling samples, performed unauthorized tests, administered medication to non-patients and used the same pipettes for urine and blood samples. SmithKline Beecham fired Giorgi and estimated that she had drawn blood from approximately 11,000 individuals during her two years at the Palo Alto location. Giorgi had worked as a health technician at 10 other clinics in the Bay Area since 1994 (Foo, 3/3).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.