In recent months, a number of cases of medical malpractice around the country have been linked to unsafe injection practices. In 2009, there was a hepatitis A outbreak in Nevada that was linked to the inappropriate use of drug vials, which led to widespread contamination and infections. Often, medical personnel may be prompted to use cut corners when they administer injections, and this can place patients at risk.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has launched the One and Only campaign, which is aimed at increasing awareness among both nurses as well as patients about safe injection practices. According to the CDC, since 1999, more than 125,000 persons have been at risk of exposure to HIV, hepatitis, B and hepatitis C, all due to unsafe injection practices.
The most basic safe injection practice is to use just one syringe and one needle per patient. In a recent survey, as many as 1%, of medical personnel reported that they reused single-dose vials on multiple patients. These are extremely dangerous practices.
Fortunately, since the AIDS scare, many patients are more aware about safe injection practices. It is very important that patients speak up when they see medical personnel adopting unsafe practices. As a patient, you must question whether the syringe has been used on anyone else, or whether the vial that has been opened is a single-use vial.
Hospitals must invest in awareness and education campaigns, and encourage personnel to be more careful with injection practices. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s One and Only campaign is an excellent place to start. Some experts believe that unsafe injection practices may be more widespread in small hospitals and clinics, because there are limited numbers of staff members, and lower opportunities for sufficient oversight of nurses. Patients who check in to a smaller facility may need to be more alert.