Florida: More Than 1,800 Broward General Patients May Have Been Exposed to Blood-Borne Infection

Broward General Medical Center officials are warning 1,851 patients who underwent cardiac stress tests from January 2004 until this September that they may have been exposed to HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C following the discovery that a nurse reused medical equipment intended for one-time use.

In early September, a patient noticed the nurse reusing saline bags and tubing while administering intravenous fluids during chemical cardiac stress tests and phoned the hospital anonymously to report the irregularities. The nurse acknowledged she knew what she did was wrong but did not provide an answer as to why she did not use new equipment for each patient, said hospital officials.

The nurse was immediately suspended. She has since resigned and has been reported to the Florida Board of Nursing. "This is such a basic practice. It's rudimentary nursing skills, so much so that we would not go and look for this sort of practice," said hospital Chief Operating Officer Alice Taylor.

"This is the egregious act of one individual who blatantly violated the safety and health of our patients," hospital CEO James Thaw said in a certified letter to patients. "We understand that this is alarming and may be frightening, but want to assure our patients we will assist in every possible way."

Hospital spokesperson Cathy Meyer said affected patients should contact the hospital for screening or see their regular doctor -- even if they do not feel sick. An auditorium in the hospital has been set up with counselors, she said. Concerned patients can obtain additional information by phoning 800-545-5716.