The Times-Picayune, March 11, 2011
Tulane Medical Center in New Orleans has notified 360 patients that it failed to properly sanitize gastrointestinal scoping equipment used during seven weeks last fall, potentially exposing the group to various infectious diseases. Robert Lynch, MD, the hospital's CEO, acknowledged the error in a Jan. 3 letter that invited affected patients to obtain free screening for hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV. The letter, however, characterized the chances of infection as "minimal to non-existent." Lynch cited a mistake in one of five steps in its sanitizing protocol and framed the tests as a way "to reassure patients whose procedures were impacted." State epidemiologist Raoult Ratard, MD, who has conferred with Tulane officials about the case, said the chances of the equipment transmitting an infection "would be extremely, extremely small. I think Tulane just wants to be careful." That has not satisfied at least one patient, identified as "John Doe" in the lawsuit he filed Feb. 22 in Orleans Parish Civil District Court.