INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - Every hospital in the country is on alert after thousands ofpatients have been put at risk of HIV and hepatitis fromunsterilized equipment used during surgery.
It happened at three Veterans Affairs hospitals, but there'sgrowing concern it could happen at any hospital in the country.
Veterans Affairs confirms 16 cases of hepatitis B or Cinfections -- all tested positive after they were exposed tocontaminated colonoscopy equipment.
Thousands of veterans have been warned to get blood tests afterVA facilities in Miami, Florida, Murfreesboro, Tennessee andAugusta, Georgia failed to properly sterilize equipment betweentreatments.
Veteran Gregory McClure has had five colonoscopies.
"To have colon cancer, that I can handle. But to be infected bysomebody else’s stuff, no, no, no," said McClure.
Indiana Congressman Steve Buyer, the ranking member on the HouseVeterans Affairs Committee, is leading the investigation.
While it's unclear if all were infected through the unsterilizedequipment, Buyer said "The presumption should always be in favor ofthe veteran."
Buyer added that if the veteran didn't know they had the diseaseand now they do, the VA is responsible.
Test results can take up to two weeks.
Buyer said he is upset the VA was not forthcoming about thenumber of at-risk veterans. He believes the number of infected willgrow.
Meanwhile, every hospital in the country is going on alert.Letters from Health and Human Services and the Centers for DiseaseControl are being sent, telling private hospitals to examine theirown colonoscopy procedures.
Buyer said if it can happen within the VA, it can happenanywhere -- and to anyone.
Hundreds of VA patients were already HIV positive when they hadthe colonoscopy performed in Miami, meaning contaminated fluidscould have been transferred from patient-to-patient.
None of the potential infections happened at Roudebush --the VA hospital in Indianapolis. However, veterans in Indiana havecalled 24-Hour News 8 reporting that they had the procedure at oneof the VA hospitals that did not sterilize. They are now beingtested and are awaiting test results.
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