Seattle’s Virginia Mason Hospital contacting patients over hepatitis B risk

Seattle’s Virginia Mason Hospital is contacting around 650 patients who were treated in the hospital’s dialysis unit dating back to 2011, as they might be facing a low risk of hepatitis B. On Friday, the hospital said that a lapse in hepatitis B screening procedures might have put patients in dialysis over the past five years to be at risk.

The hospital is contacting the patients dating back to 2011 and has been urging them to get tested for hepatitis B infections. Virginia Mason said that it has been informing patients out of caution and the exposure risk is very low.

It is yet to be find out if any patient already diagnosed with hepatitis B has been treated in the three-bed dialysis unit. Dr. Cyrus Cryst, head of the hospital’s nephrology unit, admitted about the lapse, but mentioned that hospital officials have worked to solve the problem.

A survey was carried out by Joint Commission and during that the hospital was informed about the inconsistency. In May, Virginia Mason started the investigation. In late May, the hospital informed Public Health officials.

Public Health’s investigation has found that Virgina Mason had been following other steps to prevent infections like disinfection and cleaning. Dr. Jeff Duchin, county health officer, was of the view that the Public Health has not found any evidence of increased risk to acquire blood-borne pathogens in the hospital’s dialysis unit.

The CDC said that hepatitis B is transmitted through contact with bodily fluids. But it could be present on environmental surfaces. If blood-contaminated surfaces are not routinely or thoroughly cleaned they can harbor the virus. The center performs around 1,500 dialysis treatment for 260 patients every year.

According to a story published on the topic by Seattle Times, “Virginia Mason’s investigation began in May after hospital staff were alerted to screening inconsistencies during a survey by the Joint Commission, a nonprofit organization that accredits more than 21,000 health-care organizations and programs in the U.S. Records show that the hospital was surveyed May 20 and May 27 and received a contingent accreditation, which indicates the facility failed to address all requirements.”

The hospital notified Public Health officials in late May that staff had not been consistently screening patients for hepatitis B as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Through that screening, if a patient is found to have hepatitis B, he or she receives treatment in a private room, away from other patients. Most chronic kidney-dialysis patients are regularly screened for hepatitis B by their providers and will not need to take any special action, according to Dr. Jeff Duchin, county health officer.

“If you are a regular dialysis patient, your dialysis unit is likely routinely testing you for hepatitis B according to guidelines. Check with your dialysis provider to be sure you have been tested. If you are immune to hepatitis B, there is nothing more to do with respect to this notice,” Nephrology Section head Cyrus Cryst wrote in a letter,” according to a recent My North West News report.

Virginia Mason discovered in mid-May we had been inconsistent in screening all dialysis patients for hepatitis B on admission and every 30 days. As a result, not every hepatitis B-positive patient was appropriately isolated during dialysis at Virginia Mason. The risk that other patients were exposed to hepatitis B was very low because of other infection-control safeguards and the limited ways the virus can spread from person to person. Out of an abundance of caution, we are contacting patients to inform them they may have been near a hepatitis B-positive patient in the dialysis unit.

A report published in Daily Times informed, “Sources have revealed that all Hepatitis B patients are being deprived of this life-saving facility. Furthermore, there is no professor of nephrology present in CMC to look after the patients of this critical department. This act shows utter negligence of the hospital administration. The dialysis centre, which was previously functioning in the Urology Department in CMCH Teaching Block, has now been shifted to the city block, largely due to the unhygienic ground water. which was being used in the dialysis process through Reverse Osmosis system.”

Previously, 40-42 kidney-failure patients from many nearby districts were getting dialysis on a daily basis but now only 30-32 patients can have this facility, due to the non-availability of machines. The ground water has been determined unfit for dialysis by the PCSIR Laboratory report because of the nearby flowing Rice Canal. However, now it has been transferred to a new place, which is located in the centre of the city and has a comparatively better ground water.

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