New Mexico Patients at Risk After Needle Mistakes

In another case of <"">shoddy infection-control practices involving needles, a group of medical students in New Mexico are now making headlines. According to The Associated Press (AP), the group did not correctly change the needles that were used on devices for blood glucose testing.

The AP also said that University of New Mexico School of Medicine (UNM) officials have said that at least a few dozen people could be at risk for disease. The announcement was made by the school in an attempt to track down the 51-55 people who participated in free testing that was conducted on April 24 at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque.

“Basically you’ve got the students who were trying to do something good and just didn’t go about it the right way,” said Sam Giammo, a spokesman for UNM’s Health Sciences Center, quoted the AP.

The students were part of a physician assistant program and were conducted the free tests during the American Indian Week Pueblo Days at the cultural center; over 1,600 international visitors—including visitors from Canada, Italy, Sweden, and Germany—were indicated on the visitor list, noted the AP.

Tazbah McCullah, a Center spokeswoman, said that there exists a high level of diabetes in the Native American community and the testing was a way in which to help with this rising trend, reported the AP. The mistakes became known on May 10 and, since, the Center has been collaborating with UNM to inform affected visitors to the issue, including sending notices to tribal officials, the Indian Health Service, and tourism organizations, among others, said the AP. “We have visitors locally and from all over the world that come here, so that’s why we felt it was important to get this out far and wide,” McCullah added.

According to Giammo, the devices should never been used in a public venue and not all of the students in the group received proper training on the devices, reported the AP, which pointed out that because immediate test results were received, records on participants were not kept.

The devices used are similar in design to home glucose testing devices and contain six lancets (needles) to draw blood, explained the AP. A new lancet must be loaded for each test, which was not always done at the event, which could result in exposure to another participant’s blood, the AP said. Hepatitis B and C and HIV are the diseases of most concern.

In a related story, last month we wrote that injuries related to needlesticks and sharps have risen in the operating room (OR) following national legislation meant to reduce these dangers, according to research. The issue is that intravenous and other device administration can cause injuries to clinicians, patients, laboratory personnel, pharmacy staff, housekeeping personnel, and waste handlers by an exposed needle or other sharp. Consequences include serious cuts and exposure to blood borne pathogens such as HIV or the hepatitis B or C virus.

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