Veterans Potentially Exposed to HIV, HCV at Georgia Hospital

Jan Dyer

March 08, 2022

Testing is ongoing after more than 4,600 veterans who had received care at the Carl Vinson Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Dublin, Georgia, were alerted that they may have been exposed to HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. The exposure was due to improperly sterilized equipment. At least some of the patients have tested positive, but the facility has not indicated the number, the diseases, or whether the infections were the result of the exposure.

A mid-January internal review at the hospital found that not all steps were being followed in the procedures for sterilizing equipment between patients. Patients who had dentistry, endoscopy, urology, podiatry, optometry, or surgical procedures in 2021 may have been exposed to blood-borne pathogens.

In response, the VA sent teams from other hospitals to help, including a team from the Augusta Veterans Affairs Medical Center to reprocess all equipment and staff from VA facilities in Atlanta, South Carolina, and Alabama to provide personnel training. All staff at Carl Vinson Veterans Affairs Medical Center have since been retrained on all current guidelines.

The hospital says it's still testing exposed veterans. Hospital spokesperson James Huckfeldt told a Macon-based newspaper, The Telegraph , that veterans with positive test results will undergo additional testing to determine whether the transmission is new or preexisting. "The findings from the additional testing will be used to accurately diagnose any impacted veterans and ensure that they receive appropriate medical treatment," he said.

Manuel M. Davila, director of the hospital, sent letters to the patients at risk, alerting them to the exposure. "We sincerely apologize and accept responsibility for this mistake and are taking steps to prevent it from happening in the future," Davilla wrote. "This event is unacceptable to us as well, and we want to work with you to correct the situation and ensure your safety and well-being. Because your safety is important to us and because we want to honor your trust in us, we want you to know that when concerns are raised over our processes or procedures, we take immediate steps to stop everything and make sure things are."

Davilla reassured the veterans that "we are confident that the risk of infectious disease is very low."

The Carl Vinson Medical Center has set up a communication center to answer questions for veterans: (478) 274-5400.

This article originally appeared on MDedge.com, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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