Published Wednesday, August 28, 2013 11:22AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, August 29, 2013 7:47AM EDT
Almost 2,500 women who visited the colposcopy clinic at the Miramichi Regional Hospital in New Brunswick over the last 14 years have been informed that there is a small chance that they may have been exposed to hepatitis, HIV or other infections.
Colposcopy is a diagnostic procedure typically used to exam the cervix and vagina of women who have had abnormal Pap test results.
Horizon Health Network, which operates the Miramichi hospital, said Wednesday that it learned this past May that the disinfection of biopsy forceps in the clinic was not consistently meeting recommended standards.
It says that from May 1999 to May 24, 2013, disinfection of the forceps involved either a high-level disinfection or sterilization. But the standard recommendation in such procedures is to always perform a full sterilization.
Horizon says as soon as the error was discovered, the recommended standard of sterilization was put in place.
Horizon Health Network said the risk of infection is low because high-level disinfection destroys 99.99 per cent of blood-borne pathogens such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV. Sterilization though would have killed 100 per cent.
Only a total of 2,497 patients who required a biopsy as part of their colposcopy are involved in the alert. They have been notified of the issue and are being offered the opportunity to have a blood test.
John McGarry, the president and CEO of Horizon Health Network, says affected patients were informed of the issue by registered letter on Wednesday. He says his team is disclosing the issue now, as part of its full disclosure policy.
“While we are assured the risk of infection is extremely low, Horizon Health Network believes it is our responsibility to inform our patients of any potential exposure to risks,” he said in a statement.
“We sincerely apologize for the error and assure you that your well-being is our main concern.”
Dr. Gordon Dow, an infectious disease consultant with The Moncton Hospital, says Horizon Health Network consulted with external infection control physician expert to determine the risk of infection.
“The estimated risk of contracting hepatitis B is 1 in 47,000 procedures; however the risk of becoming ill is 1 in 156,000 procedures. The risk of contracting hepatitis C or HIV is less than one in a million procedures when using high-level disinfection cleaning.”
Patients can contact their family physician for more information or call a toll-free line, at 1-866-522-6153.