Make Sure Your Doctor Isn’t Reusing Needles

May 17, 2013

Needle ReuseIt’s a way to save money. One Denver dentist tried to reuse (and sterilize, supposedly) needles and potentially gave Hep C to THOUSANDS of people. Another reused a bottle of painkiller and caused a small MRSA outbreak.

Now, a VA hospital in NY was caught reusing insulin needles, putting over 700 veterans at risk for illnesses including Hep C and HIV. What’s particularly horrible in this instance is that many of them are older, so the chance that their immune systems were able to fight off the infection is low, and it’s quite likely that anyone exposed would develop Hep C symptoms sooner than later.

Reusing needles happens more than people think, unfortunately. The flashier stories are when some hospital employee steals pain meds, borrowing your needle to do so. Those have the added element of undermedicated patients!

But in some offices needles are reused regularly. Many doctors are struggling from being underpaid by insurance—Medicare sets prices almost arbitrarily low, and insurance follows suit. Most doctors inflate their prices to compensate. Plus, they have to figure out how to spread the wages for the nurses and techs who care for you into those costs. But in some states, like California, state offered health care is already bankrupt and doesn’t pay anything! And many smaller offices struggle to meet expenses (yep, the general stereotype is wrong here!).

And dentists, whose offices are most often in the news for the offence of reusing needles, have been struggling the hardest from the recession and the new national health care laws. As insurance rates are skyrocketing, many people are cutting dental from their plans. Even before these new higher prices started coming into effect, the recession helped many people realize they could live without paying to have their teeth scraped clean, or that they could make it a little longer with that cavity.

I know of one local dentist who had to let all of his staff go except one nurse, and brought his wife in to work reception in order to keep the lights on. I have no idea what else he might have done to keep his families source of income going.

So, watch out. Needles should come from new packages, and should be disposed of in hazardous waste containers. They should be concerned with counting needles as they dispose of them so none are left out.

If you have to go to the hospital for any reason, needles or no, make sure you keep your immune system strong and continue to support your health. Colloids For Life has a wide range of products to help you!

What do you think of the continual news of the risk of getting Hep C from the doctor’s office?

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