Real fear in South Korea Hepatitis C outbreak

Lauren Lollini is a patient safety advocate who has been integral in changing laws to keep patients safe as well as a member of the Drug Diversion Prevention Committee.
Lauren Lollini is a patient safety advocate who has been integral in changing laws to keep patients safe as well as a member of the Drug Diversion Prevention Committee.

Prior to my 2009 Hep C infection I paid little, if any, attention to issues of safe injection practices, drug diversion or outbreaks. In my ordinary life, I had no concern for such things. In fact, I am not even sure I could adequately define any of those terms prior to the chaos of 2009 and the outbreak in Colorado.
But since, I have kept myself in the know, paying attention to trends, outbreaks and legislation to protect patients. My email inbox and social media accounts are littered with stories, mostly bad, about errors in patient care. I truly hope that some of the initiatives I have become a part of will put a stop to most of these incidents. However, in preparing for every situation in an attempt to prevent these events you will find a tale so far fetched you want to read the facts 2 or 3 times just to insure what you initially thought you heard was correct.

This was the case with a story out of Seoul, South Korea this past month. 71 patients were confirmed to have contracted Hepatitis C from a clinic which regularly reused syringes. The strange but true and incredibly sad fact was that 98% of patients who were serviced at this particular clinic were treated with intravenous injections.

98%?!? Reports state that the average is under 20% for intravenous injections at facilities nationwide. How can a healthcare professional who delivers so many injections each day make such a tragic and potentially deadly error?

Sources say that the doctor who has been held responsible in this outbreak claimed to have a brain injury he suffered in 2012. This doctor reportedly reused disposable needles during procedures. Said doctor claimed that due to his brain injury tremors in his hands and fingers resulted making it difficult for him to unwrap new syringes. Yes, this is the part you may want to read more than once just to be sure you have it straight.

So while the clinic has been closed and the police have become involved, my concern is about the thousands and thousands who may have been exposed from 2012 until now. And to make matters worse, reports indicate this doctor may have been reusing syringes even prior to his 2012 injury.

Words cannot do justice to the feelings swirling around regarding this occurrence. But perhaps, fear is the strongest of those feelings. Fear that situations like this truly do happen. Fear that no legislation, no policy and procedure, no checks and balances will ever stop this incredible disregard for patient safety.

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