June 28, 2017 11:20 am
Updated: June 28, 2017 9:09 pm

1,307 patients potentially exposed to hepatitis B and C at Grey Nuns, Misericordia hospitals in Edmonton

WATCH ABOVE: Over 1,300 people will be receiving letters from Covenant Health telling them to get tested for hepatitis B and C after the organization says some diabetic patients were potentially exposed to the diseases. Fletcher Kent reports.

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Covenant Health said it is notifying patients of the potential risk of exposure to the hepatitis B and C viruses.

Letters have been mailed to 1,307 patients who may have been exposed to the infectious disease, after a breach during individual insulin training sessions at the Grey Nuns and Misericorida Community Hospitals Diabetes Education Centres, between 2013 and early 2016.

Covenant Health said the risk to patients is considered very low.

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“This is a very low-risk event and we’re apologetic that we’re also creating anxiety in a lot of people,” said Dr. Owen Heisler, Chief Medical Officer of Covenant Health.

“We believe we have a responsibility to notify our patients of this risk, even though it is very low.”

All affected patients are being advised to be tested for both the hepatitis B and C viruses.

The infection control breach happened with the use of saline-filled demonstration pens and pillows used for practice.

The needles and pens were changed after each use, however the pen’s saline reservoir may not have been changed with every patient and the pillows may have been used by multiple patients.

Needles were never shared between patients.

Covenant Health confirmed it was made aware of the breach 16 months ago, in February 2016, and defended the delay in informing patients.

“We do know that the important thing is to be thorough and we trusted the experts on that opinion,” Heisler said.

“We moved at a pace that we were respectful of both the process and the patients.”

Hepatitis B and hepatitis C are viral infections that attack the liver. Symptoms can include vomiting, yellowish skin, tiredness, dark urine and abdominal pain.

WATCH: Nurse Vivian Overall, with the Covenant Health medication management safety team, demonstrates how to property use an saline-filled insulin pen.

Alberta Health Services’ Risk Assessment Panel (RAP) notified patients with diabetes or gestational diabetes who received insulin pen training at:

  • Grey Nuns Community Hospital Diabetes Education Centre between March 2013 and February 19, 2016; or
  • Misericordia Community Hospital Diabetes Education Centre between May 2014 and February 19, 2016.

The RAP said children born to patients with gestational diabetes who received training do not need to be tested.

New guidelines for saline-filled demonstration pens have been developed and implemented at all Diabetes Education Centres and staff have received updated training.

Covenant Health operates 17 health-care facilities in Alberta, including the Grey Nuns and Misericordia hospitals in Edmonton.

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