PeaceHealth St. John Medical Center has informed nearly 300 patients of the possibility of coming in contact with HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C viruses. There is an extremely low chance of infection, but caution is encouraged, a hospital official said.

An assessment was conducted internally at the health facility to evaluate the infection-control practices in place. During an inspection, a breach in practice was discovered, when a dental device that remedies sleep apnea in patients was found to have not been appropriately sterilized.

Patients who used the appliance between Nov. 18, 2013 and Feb. 26, 2016 are potentially at risk of exposure to these serious infections.

The equipment in question apparently missed a mechanical scrubbing part of its routine sterilization procedure. However, it has been regularly sterilized with an antimicrobial solution as well as with steam, and thus the infectious risk could be at a minimum. Also blood-borne viruses are unlikely to get transmitted through the use of dental devices.

However, as a precaution, the facility concerned has offered potentially infected patients to be tested for HIV, Hepatitis B and C. The tests are offered at its Longview branch with the costs fully covered by the medical center. If a patient is more comfortable and prefers to be tested at an alternate lab, or provider, PeaceHealth has no qualms about it and will still foot the bill.

"I apologize for the concern this might cause our patients, their families and our community," said Kirk Raboin, chief administrative officer, PeaceHealth St. John. "We take this very seriously. If you've received a letter from us, we are offering testing as a precaution, at no charge to you."

A local report said that 10 patients have already come forward and got tested, all the results have turned out negative.

The hospital also has rectified its infection-control practices and set right its cleaning and sterilization procedures.

"The likelihood of infection is extremely low, still, we are acting with an abundance of caution because our highest priority is the health and safety of our patients," added Raboin.

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