Hundreds tested for HIV after Oklahoma nurse reused syringes

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – A Cherokee Nation hospital in Oklahoma is testing more than 180 patients for HIV and hepatitis after allegations that a nurse reused syringes to administer medications.

Cherokee officials tell the Tulsa World that the nurse violated protocols by using the same vial of medication and syringe to inject multiple intravenous bags at W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah. Officials say the nurse no longer works for the tribe.

Hospital CEO Brian Hail says it’s unlikely blood-borne pathogens traveled into an IV bag to cause cross-contamination. But patients who were treated at the hospital between January and April are recommended to still return for blood tests.

About 64 patients had been screened as of Monday, none of whom tested positive. Officials are still working to notify eight patients who should be tested.

The hospital, which is operated by Cherokee Nation Health Services, released the following statement last week:

“There was a brief lapse in protocol at W.W. Hastings Hospital earlier this year. There are no indications patient health care was compromised, but out of an overabundance of caution, some patients were asked to return for testing. Test results from every patient thus far have shown no harmful exposure, and have reinforced our belief that patient health is not at risk. Cherokee Nation Health Services is the largest tribally operated health care system in the United States, seeing more than one million patient visits per year with many accreditations focusing on continuous quality improvement, including many involving integrity and continuity of care. Our doctors, nurses and other health care professionals provide diligent, compassionate care during those one million annual patient visits, and we will continue to put patient health, safety and peace of mind first.”