VA hospital warns 4,000 patients of infection risk tied to unsterile equipment

Carl Vinson VA Medical Center in Dublin, Ga., is providing free testing for blood-borne infections to more than 4,000 patients after learning they may have been exposed to improperly sterilized medical equipment, local CBS affiliate WMAZ reports. 

The Dublin VA is notifying veterans who had a dentistry, endoscopy, urology, podiatry, optometry or surgical procedure throughout the last year of potential exposure to blood-borne illnesses such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV, according to The Telegraph. 

Manuel Davila, director of the Dublin VA, in a Feb. 9 letter sent to veterans who may have been affected and obtained by WMAZ, said the facility learned during an internal review that there may have been times when steps for thorough sterilization of medical equipment weren't completed.  

The VA is "confident that the risk of infectious diseases is very low," and is offering testing free of charge between Feb. 9-25 for those potentially exposed, though it is not required, its letter to potentially exposed veterans said, according to WMAZ

After learning of "concerns about reprocessing reusable medical equipment," the Carl Vinson VA stopped all medical procedures and operations between Jan. 12-14.

"We immediately engaged one of our sister facilities in Augusta who sent out a sterilization team," Mr. Davila told WMAZ, adding the facility is also investigating why proper sterilization processes may not have been followed. 

"If we find information or we find concerns, then we may look back further than January. We may go back to two years, or we may go back three years. It just depends what we find in the initial look back," Mr. Davila said.

Findings from that review are expected by Feb. 24. 

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