North Shore University Hospital, Manhasset, N.Y., voluntarily alerted 177 patients who underwent endoscopic procedures at the 731-bed hospital of a breakdown in infection-control measures. The patients, who received the procedures between April 28 and May 10, are undergoing tests for infections such as HIV and hepatitis C and B. So far, 86 have undergone tests with negative results, North Shore officials said. Hospital officials said that because of a lack of proper documentation they couldn't be sure the endoscopes that were used were washed with the correct concentration of disinfectant. Two employees said they tested the solution but neglected to record the results. One was subsequently fired, and the other suspended without pay. Nurse managers in the department now are under orders to check the testing log daily.
Hospital officials said that HIV and hepatitis had never been transmitted in such a manner according to the infectious-disease experts who were consulted. "Based on the elaborate cleaning process, we are confident that the risk of any viral transmission is virtually nonexistent," officials said in a written statement. A spokesman for the state Department of Health said the hospital notified the department of the lapse last week. He said health department officials are investigating and monitoring the situation to make sure patients receive appropriate follow-up care. -- by Cinda Becker