People go to the hospital to have infections and diseases treated. In a Massachusetts hospital, however, nearly 300 patients who underwent colonoscopies were possibly exposed to HIV and hepatitis.

Baystate Noble Hospital in Westfield announced on Friday that due to a lapse in disinfection protocols, 293 patients may have been exposed to blood-borne pathogens.

The affected patients are those who underwent colonoscopies from June 11, 2012 to April 17, 2013.

Hospital officials explained that Noble Hospital started utilizing new equipment for the procedure during the said start period. The new devices required different strategies for cleaning, but because of lack of training, inadequate disinfection practices were performed.

More specifically, disinfection between procedures did not sufficiently expose the single water irrigation port to a high-level of disinfection come the last part of the cleaning.

To address the issue, Baystate Noble Hospital intricately compiled all patients affected. The hospital sent out notification letters by mail starting Jan. 20.

The letter contains instructions and details of recommended precautionary screening. The patients will not be responsible for any medical expenses that the procedures will incur.

In the news release of the hospital, it states that the lapse occurred only at a certain part of the colonoscopy device and for this, the risk low. However, it is not zero so the hospital is taking the necessary steps to address the issue.

The hospital also explained why it only released the news now. The reason is because the hospital was not aware of the potential risk until after the Massachusetts Department of Public Health raised the issue following a site visit.

"As soon as we became aware of the issue, we took steps to respond to the situation and notify those affected," the news release writes.

Cleaning endoscopes is critically important as not doing so may put patients at risk of serious infections. In November 2015, the U.S. FDA recalled endoscope washers of Custom Ultrasonics. The device called Automated Endoscope Reprocessors (AERs) needs to be manually cleaned after which, it must be washed and disinfected for about half an hour.

Photo: Ano Lobb | Flickr

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