Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Australian soldiers at risk of HIV, Hepatitis C after hospital blunder

AUSTRALIAN soldiers have reportedly been exposed to HIV and Hepatitis after staff at a major Defence hospital near Dubai failed to properly sterilise surgical equipment
The Al Minhad Air Base hospital blunder continued unnoticed for two years between February 2009 and August 2010, a Fairfax newspapers investigation reveals.
But soldiers and defence contractors were only told last week.
More than 100 soldiers suffered serious combat injuries in Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010.
A memo sent to soldiers warns anyone who passed through the hospital during that time to get their blood screened.

"The al-Minhad air base health facility of Joint Task Force 633 has identified lapses in procedure in the operation of the surgical instrument steriliser," the memo reads.
"As a consequence the sterilisation of surgical instruments at the facility cannot be absolutely guaranteed to have met Australian standards ... during the period February 2009 to August 2010.
"Personnel who underwent a surgical procedure (eg. excision of skin lesions, minor operations) during that period are possibly at risk of acquiring a blood born disease."

Soldiers are said to be shocked by the memo with one telling the Australian the lapse in sterilisation coincides with a period of time when Australian soldiers suffered a high casualty rate.

An infectious disease expert told the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday he was concerned that took so long for Defence  to notice the problem and said such lapses were rare in Australian hospitals.
"The highest risk is hepatitis C because patients cannot be vaccinated ... there has been the occasional report of HIV being transmitted in the operating theatre," he said. "It is unusual that it has taken that long to detect there is a problem."

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