Syringe scare sparks search for Canadian patients

Mon Oct 27, 2008 3:52pm EDT
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CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Public health officials in Alberta are looking for 2,700 former patients of a small hospital in the western Canadian province, after staff there reused syringes to administer medication through intravenous lines.

The Alberta government said on Monday that staff at a health complex in High Prairie, a small town about 300 km (186 miles) northwest of the provincial capital of Edmonton, were using syringes to inject medication into plastic intravenous lines of multiple patients.

Though health officials said in a release that the risk of infection because of the practice was low, they want to test 1,300 patients who had an endoscopy -- a procedure in which a small camera is inserted into the body -- at the facility between 2004 and 2008.

They're also seeking 1,400 patients who had dental surgery there between 1990 and 2008.

According to a report by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp, officials discovered the problem earlier this month when a manager at the High Prairie Health Complex watched a new employee being trained on how to administer medication to patients.

It is not the first time that Alberta's provincially run hospitals have been caught using unsafe and unsterile procedures.

Last year one small-town hospital had to track down and test nearly 3,000 former patients after improperly sterilizing surgical tools.

(Reporting by Scott Haggett ;editing by Rob Wilson)