Contributing Editor Christine Blank is a freelance writer based in Florida.
Kent Hospital, in Warwick, R.I., is stepping up its staff's awareness of safe injection practices.
"These lapses in basic infection control include reusing needles and syringes from patient to patient or misusing single-dose and multi-dose vials," wrote Peter Graves, MD, chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Kent Hospital, in a guest blog at the CDC's website.
The CDC's Safe Injection Practices Coalition also reports that more than 130,000 patients have been notified that they might be at risk for bloodborne disease, resulting from double-use of syringes and other errors. "Though we've never had an outbreak or known infection, establishing a culture of safety around these potential sources of infection is not just about procedure, it's about trust and sleeping well at night," Graves wrote.
McKnight, who was receiving treatment at her local hospital for a recurrence of breast cancer, contracted hepatitis C when a provider used one IV bag as a shared source of flush for several chemotherapy patients.
"You could have heard a pin drop as these stories were told to over 100 physician attendees," Graves wrote.
In addition, hospital officials have reminded the ED staff in meetings and e-mails that "it is never acceptable to use the same needle or syringe more than one time to draw up or administer medications, and that all single-dose vials of medications in the ED are just that: to be used once and then discarded," Graves told Drug Topics.
In other related measures, the hospital has attached reminder placards to the top of procedure carts in the ED, and it plans to hold a "grand rounds" presentation for a multidisciplinary audience, addressing all aspects of safe injection practices.
All of Kent's ED staff has been supportive of the initiative and "incredulous that this sort of problem even existed," Graves said.
"All staff has agreed to be much more vigilant not only about their own practices regarding safe injections, but also the practices of their colleagues," he added.