The Buffalo Veterans Affairs Medical Center recently notified 526 patients of the use of an improperly cleansed medical scope, which may have put them at risk of infection.

A recent review of the disinfection process for endoscopes found that steps in the manufacturer's instructions were not being followed by an employee of the hospital.

In a statement, hospital officials characterized the risk of infection as "very low" and offered free screening to the patients.

Risk with inadequately cleansed medical scopes revolves around the transmission of such illnesses as hepatitis C and HIV.

"Notification does not mean veterans were infected," stated VA medical center officials.

Endoscopes are lighted, flexible tubes that are used by doctors to see inside patients' bodies. They have been known to be difficult to clean and require careful steps to disinfect for reuse in another patient. Hence, there has been an increasing concern about infections related to these devices.

Research indicates that organic residues may remain after manual cleaning and contamination can persist even in institutions with documented adherence to sanitation guidelines.

Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, expressed his concern in a statement last week. "We will ask for more details, await the results of the ongoing investigation, and will work with the Buffalo VA to see that our nation's duty to properly care for our veterans is met," he said.

This is not the first time that the Buffalo VA Medical Center's processes have come under question.

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