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Hospital errors lead to risk of infections

When patients seek healthcare at a hospital, they have the right to expect that treatment will help them get better and that the equipment used will be as safe as humanly possible. Unfortunately, hospitals often make mistakes and the consequences on a patient's health can be devastating.

A dozen individuals who received colonoscopies at a veteran's hospital have been notified that the equipment used in the procedures may have been improperly cleaned. The procedures occurred as early as 2004. This marks the third notification from the hospital of medical errors resulting in infection worries, and over 2,500 veterans have been affected.

Last year, the Veterans Administration announced that it had taken steps to prevent these types of notification errors. When the incident occurred again, the VA continued to blame medical record keeping methods maintained by the hospital, located in Miami.

The errors were found when officials from the VA cross-referenced the Miami hospital's electronic records against the paper logbooks. The electronic records omitted the errors, while the paper logbooks contained them. A spokeswoman from the VA said disciplinary actions are not expected in the matter.

In March 2009, the same hospital informed 2,400 veterans that their colonoscopies were performed with equipment that was simply rinsed in lieu of chemical sterilization. Similar incidents have been reported in other states, with over 11,000 veterans affected.

As a result of the serious medical error, eight of the veterans tested positive for hepatitis, while three were found to have HIV. U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen called the announcements of more medical errors "beyond outrageous," and went on to say that all veterans "deserve better."

Source: Miami Herald, "More war veterans at risk of HIV infection after VA hospital error," Fred Tasker, 2/9/2011

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