Thousands of Patients Urged to Test for Infection

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    More than 3,000 patients at Palomar Hospital are at risk for infection, from diagnostic equipment that might not have been disinfected.

    In March, the Escondido hospital reported informed the state health department that equipment used in its out-patient surgery center may not have been properly disinfected which launched an investigation, and inspected the hospital.

    Inspection Uncovers Problems at Medical Center

    [DGO] Inspection Uncovers Problems at Medical Center
    State inspectors say a North County hospital is putting patients at risk. (Published Tuesday, Jun 15, 2010)

    Palomar Hospital urged the patients to take a blood test, saying the risk of infection from the diagnostic equipment is "very low."

    In fact, only 45 patients may have been exposed to infection because an expired disinfectant was used to clean endoscopes, according to our media partners the North County Times. Endoscopes are used to examine a hollow organ or body cavity.

    One patient, who spoke with the paper but asked not to be identified, said she was concerned about the news that she may have been put at risk for bloodborne illnesses like hepatitis and HIV.

    "They may say, 'Don't worry, it's just a low risk (of exposure),'" the woman told the North County Times. "People think I am making a big deal out of nothing, that this is nothing. But this is my body."

    State health investigators found more violations, including potentially unsafe operating rooms, problems with food safety, and the cleanliness of surgical instruments.

    Medical malpractice attorney Brett Schreiber said state inspectors often find serious problems.

    "It's not uncommon in this case or any case, once you peel back that first layer of the onion, to find a lot of dirty secrets lying underneath," Schreiber said.

    The hospital did not respond to our questions about other problems found during that April inspection.