Profession

Campaign targets needlestick injuries

Organizations involved in the safety effort point out that hospitals not complying with OSHA regulations are subject to fines.

By Myrle Croasdale — Posted March 22, 2004

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When residents at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City reported needlestick safety violations to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA responded with citations and a fine of $9,000.

"We thought OSHA's action was remarkable, not because we felt Monty was bad, but because it was typical," said Steve Cha, MD, chief resident in internal medicine at Montefiore.

Many hospitals could be out of compliance with federal regulations requiring yearly review of medical devices to eliminate or minimize exposure to blood and other infectious materials.

Inspired by OSHA's action, a group of residents, along with Public Citizen and the American Medical Student Assn. intend to campaign to purge unsafe needles from hospitals across the nation.

Hospitals and health care workers may be unaware such violations are fineable by OSHA, Dr. Cha said. However, these campaigns may slowly be changing that. According to Public Citizen, recent activism has generated a number of needlestick safety complaints to OSHA.

The National Alliance for the Primary Prevention of Sharps Injuries, is also in the midst of a nationwide needlestick safety campaign.

Steve Bierman, MD, NAPPSI's president, said some hospitals are simply unaware of the law, while others fail to comply because of a perception that giving up needles is expensive. He said just a little education and research could solve both issues.

"I'm a third-generation physician," he said. "I have two daughters. If they went into medicine, I don't want to put in all this effort and have them go down to a deadly needlestick."

The International Health Care Work Safety Center said suture needlesticks are the most common sharps injuries among medical students and residents. Health care workers get jabbed accidentally more than 590,000 times a year, exposing them to potentially fatal conditions such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.

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External links

Letter to American Hospital Assn. concerning the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's citation of Montefiore Medical Center for violating needlestick injury prevention regulations (link)

National Alliance for the Primary Prevention of Sharps Injuries (link)

International Health Care Worker Safety Center at the University of Virginia (link)

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