The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

July 16, 2013

Kansas colonoscopy patients urged to get blood tests

From The Associated Press

CHANUTE, Kan. — While assuring the 244 patients who received colonoscopies since early January there is an extremely low chance that they might have contracted a disease from the procedure, a southeast Kansas hospital is asking them to get blood tests now and again in six months just to make sure.

Officials with Neosho Memorial Regional Medical Center in Chanute and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment said at a news conference Tuesday that a piece of equipment used in colonoscopies was not properly cleaned and disinfected according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

The hospital is recommending that anyone who received a colonoscopy since Jan. 3 get tested for hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV. Should an infection turn up that is connected to the procedure, the hospital said it will provide treatment free of charge.

Endoscopes, some of which feature a small auxiliary water channel that can be used to spray water ahead of the scope, are used in colonoscopies, the hospital said. But since the water channel was not being used, it was not standard practice at the hospital to flush the channel as part of the sterilization process.

Instead, the scopes were immersed in a sterilizing fluid before use on each new patient. Because of that, infection control experts said the risk that any infections have been transmitted by the equipment is extremely low.

There will be no charge for the blood tests, the hospital said, and they can be arranged at other facilities besides the one in Chanute.

Though not related to the Chanute scare, six cases of hepatitis C were found last year in Hays and linked to a traveling technician, David Kwiatkowski, who worked at Hays Medical Center in the catheterization lab from May to September 2010.

Kwiatkowski, who is awaiting a federal trial on drug charges, is accused to have exposed thousands of people to his strain of the disease. He has pleaded not guilty to 14 counts of stealing and tampering with controlled drugs, and is set to go to trial in January.