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Oklahoma Hospital Nurse
Reused Needles on Patients

August 30, 2003

NORMAN (Reuters) - Six people contracted hepatitis at an Oklahoma hospital and about 350 other patients were undergoing tests after a nurse at the facility reused hypodermic needles, a hospital spokesman said on Wednesday.

Six patients at Norman Regional Hospital, near Oklahoma City, became infected with hepatitis C virus from the tainted needles, he said.

Officials said nurse-anesthetist James C. Hill admitted reusing needles while injecting pain medication in patients, from December 31, 2001 through August 19 of this year.

"We have seen approximately 350 individuals who could possibly have been exposed," hospital spokesman Grant Farrimond said. "The hospital has contacted those individuals and offered to test them at their convenience." About 200 have been tested so far, he added.

Farrimond said that in addition to hepatitis C and B testing, exposed patients were also being tested for HIV ( news - web sites) infection.

Hill and his supervising physician have been removed from the hospital and their privileges have been revoked, Farrimond noted.

A lawsuit was filed in Norman on Wednesday against Hill and the supervising physician Dr. Jerry W. Lewis, by a patient who received injections at the clinic.

The hospital said Hill used the same needle for at least 15 patients a day, but would not speculate why he reused needles. The lawsuit is charging the nurse with negligent and malicious behavior.

Farrimond said the pain clinic, which operated in the hospital, was privately staffed and operated by Lewis.


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