I always hold people who choose careers in medicine in high esteem. While I am far from inadequate intellectually, I cannot begin to imagine being responsible for someone else’s life as literally as doctors or anyone in the medical profession do, and I admire these people for that. For me, these are people who cannot afford to make mistakes; and I fully trust that they do not. But the fact that they are also human makes us realize that mistakes are bound to happen.
This is why though I was disheartened by the mistakes that VA hospitals have admitted to, mistakes that have placed the lives of other people in jeopardy, I wasn’t that surprised. People do make mistakes – but in the field of medicine, mistakes simply cannot be tolerated.
According to reports, a congressional panel will be making inquiries into the reported mistakes of three VA hospitals. Officials of the Department of Veterans Affairs will be facing questions regarding how patients were placed at risk for exposure to HIV and other diseases that are transferred through exchange of bodily fluids.
More the ten thousand patients who underwent colonoscopies or were evaluated using ENT scopes in VA hospitals in Miami, Murfreesboro, Tennessee and Augusta, Georgia, were recommended to be asked to submit themselves to follow-up blood checks. As of May 18, about 8,000 of the patients who were possibly affected have been notified, and of those who have already done so, five have tested positive for HIV and 43 have tested positive for hepatitis.
In the case of the VA hospital in Murfreesboro, an incorrect valve in equipment may have allowed the transfer of bodily fluid from patient to patient. It is has not been established whether this was an isolated incident that occurred for just one day, or whether it has gone on since the equipment’s installation in 2003.
A tube that was supposed to be cleaned after each colonoscopy was instead only cleaned out at the end of each day in Miami, affecting patients between May 2004 and March 2009. In Augusta, ENT scopes used for looking into the nose and throats of patients were not properly cleaned, affecting patients between January 2008 and November 2008.