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Patients Contracted HIV from Contaminated Medical Equipment at Veterans Affairs Hospitals

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According to spokespersons at Veterans Affairs hospitals, three patients exposed to contaminated medical equipment at VA facilities in Murfreesboro, Tennessee; Augusta, Georgia; and Miami, Florida have now tested positive for HIV.

Over 10,000 patients at these facilities are currently getting tested for HIV after it came to light that doctors had used endoscopic (colonoscopy) equipment on them that hadn’t been sterilized properly, and had exposed them to the body fluids of other patients.

At the three facilities, there have also been a total of six positive tests for hepatitis B and 19 positive tests hepatitis C. While it’s fairly clear that the VA facilities were responsible for the HIV cases, it’s not yet clear whether patients were exposed to these other viruses here.

The VA has said it does not yet know if veterans treated with the same kind of equipment at its other 150 hospitals may have been exposed to the same mistake before the department had a nationwide safety training campaign.

An agency spokeswoman has said the mistake with the equipment was corrected nationwide by the time the campaign ended March 14. The problems discovered in December date back more than five years at the Murfreesboro and Miami hospitals. (…)

All three sites used endoscopic equipment made by Olympus American Inc., which has said in a statement it is helping the VA address problems with "inadvertently neglecting to appropriately reprocess a specific auxiliary water tube." -AP

Friday’s statement by VA officials tallies a total of 10,797 "potentially affected" patients, including 6,387 who had colonoscopies at Murfreesboro, 3,341 who had colonoscopies at Miami, and 1,069 who received treatment at Augusta’s ear, nose and throat clinic.

More than 100 VA employees have been assigned to "ensure that affected veterans receive prompt testing and appropriate counseling."

It’s a sad day for our country when our veterans can’t receive medical care without worrying about contracting life-threatening diseases through medical negligence.