“Doing all I can to protect patients”

A St. Louis nurse, fearful for the welfare of her patients, facilitated a necessary change in procedure. This is her story.

OSHA regulations protect healthcare workers in the workplace
OSHA regulations protect healthcare workers in the workplace

Recently, OSHA issued a citation against SSM Healthcare, located in the St. Louis Missouri metropolitan area. The SSM Health Care system was fined because of safety violations that potentially exposed healthcare providers to bloodborne pathogens.

Here is a link to a recent article, in which the situation is fully explained:

http://www.ksdk.com/story/news/local/5-on-your-side/2014/07/23/ssm-health-care-osha/13073791/

Unfortunately, health fair participants were put at risk. But OSHA only deals with employee safety.  An investigation by the Joint Commission is ongoing; however, those results may not necessarily be made public. It is unknown at this time if the local or state health departments or the CDC will become involved.

I am grateful for the support of representatives of HONOReform, who listened to and validated my concerns and referred me to additional resources at the CDC and the FDA.

I tried my best to facilitate change within the healthcare system. Although many people at the healthcare system were provided with the most up to date information and some changes were made incrementally, not all policies and procedures were brought up to necessary standards.

If you have been to a mass health screening that included point-of-care blood testing you that was conducted by the SSM Healthcare System in the St. Louis area, you may call 877-759-5575 option 2. This phone number is for only those who attended a Health Fair sponsored by SSM. All others who are concerned about past exposures may want to contact your Primary Care Provider for further evaluation.

The greatest risk of exposure from these types of events is exposure to Hepatitis B (because of it virulence). Additionally, HIV and Hepatitis C are blood borne pathogens that one needs to be concerned with as well.

All shared glucometers and cholesterol-lipid meters should be disinfected with a hospital grade disinfectant and allowed to air dry for two minutes or as recommended by the manufacturer of the disinfecting agent. Additionally, body fat analyzers, if handled by those who had a finger-stick and may have blood on their fingers/hands, should be disinfected as well.

In an upcoming blog post here at HONOReform, I will explore these standards, which come right out of the information provided to us by CDC, in more depth.

We are not trying to embarrass anyone, nor cause undue worry. However, for peace of mind and in order to get prompt medical care if exposures have occurred, participants of previous health fairs or mass health screenings should be tested for bloodborne pathogens. I encourage these patients to be tested.

Also, I am recommending that health fairs that include point-of-care blood testing be suspended until they are fully evaluated. Perhaps health fairs that include point-of-care blood testing should be eliminated due to the large number of outbreaks linked to shared glucometers and other unsafe practices such as shared lancet devices?

Avoiding risk to patients—always being mindful of what we are doing, and following the guidelines that have been established for us—is so important.

Even though it was not easy, I am glad that I made the decision to do all I can to implement these standards and protect our patients.

  • reply Kim James ,

    Congratulations on being brave and bold enough to take action to protect our public. Imagine the impact if every nurse takes a stand and perform one act in way of improving needle/ injection safety. I applaud your efforts!

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