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Hospital negligence involving insulin pen reuse initiates probe

Hospitals are designed to be a place of healing. The last thing that a patient thinks about when walking into the doors of one is whether they are going to contract a deadly virus or disease. Yet patients in New York may feel a little differently after hearing about a case of hospital negligence that happened in Buffalo.

Recently it was revealed that the Buffalo VA hospital had been recycling insulin pens, using them on multiple patients -- something that both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration warned hospitals against doing. Now the hospital is the subject of an investigation for its actions by the inspector general at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The probe will look at the cause of the hospital error and lawmakers are asking the inspector general to examine what is being done to prevent another such mistake from occurring.

The policy of reusing insulin pens was practiced by the hospital between October 2010 and November 2012. Hundreds of patients may have been exposed to hepatitis C, hepatitis B or even the HIV virus, but the hospital is defending its actions by claiming that it did not receive any warnings from the government agencies. Adding to the medical malpractice issue is the fact that the hospital failed to notify these patients immediately when the error was discovered.

There is no word on whether any of the estimated 716 patients have, in fact, been infected as a result of the hospital's negligent actions. If it emerges that some patients have become ill from one of the viruses, they may want to talk to an attorney about taking legal action against the medical center.

Source: The Buffalo News, "VA inspector general begins probe of practices at Buffalo hospital," Jerry Zremski, Jan. 22, 2013

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