More than 240 patients possibly exposed to HIV and Hepatitis at SEK hospital

Officials say warnings have been mailed to individual patients

0 | KDHE, Health Care Delivery

— About 240 people who had colonoscopies at a southeast Kansas hospital this year are being notified they might have been infected with Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C or HIV, state and hospital officials said during a telephone press conference today.

The 244 patients are being notified by priority mail, and will be offered free blood testing, as well as free treatment in the event any were infected, said Dennis Franks, chief executive of Neosho Memorial Regional Medical Center in Chanute. The announcement also was posted on the hospital's website.

"Infection control experts consider the risk of any infection transmission in these cases to be extremely low. But because we cannot say the risk is 'zero' we are acting with an abundance of caution and recommend the notified patients receive the blood test," Franks said.

The patients exposed to potential infections received colonoscopies between Jan. 3 and July 3. The problem resulted from improper cleaning of the equipment used in the procedure.

"We are extremely sorry for the worry that we have caused you and your family. It's natural to be afraid, but the risk here is very low for each patient," Franks said.

Charlie Hunt, state epidemiologist at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said officials decided not to disclose whether any of the patients had Hepatitis or HIV before undergoing the colonoscopy, saying that could expose patient health information.

Officials also refused to describe how the problem was discovered.

A reporter for the Chanute Tribune newspaper asked: "Is this the reason that your director of surgery, Billy Brown, was recently requested to resign?"

Franks wouldn't answer the question.

A similar problem occurred last July when the hospital in Hays urged hepatitis C testing for 460 former heart patients.

Of the 474 patients implicated by the outbreak, 396 patients were tested and six were found to be positive for Hepatitis C as a result of a procedure performed at the hospital, Hunt said.



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