If ever there was an example that an ounce or prevention can amount to a pound of cure in the medical field, it has come to light in West Palm Beach, Fla. Sadly, evidence has come too late for hundreds.
Criminal negligence is among several potential crimes being investigated by police as they study the actions of a nurse at a South Florida hospital who may have exposed more than 1,800 patients to HIV and hepatitis. Officials at Broward General Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale say the hospital has discovered that Qui Lan, 59, was reusing catheter tubing and saline bags during cardiac chemical stress tests, potentially exposing 1,851 patients to diseases from January of 2004 to early September of this year.
Officials are asking former patients, particularly those who have contracted a disease, to come forward. No victims have been found yet, but until a lot more study can be done, there could be many with communicable diseases brought on by poor performance by the errant nurse.
Qui Lan has been a nurse for 37 years and has had no prior disciplinary actions. She has given no reason why she reused the equipment, which is intended for one-time sterile use. Calls and letters are coming in at increasing rates of frequency and tests and treatments are planned where appropriate. But think of the many people who now have to worry about what might happen to them because of the behavior of one health care individual who clearly should have been supervised more intensively.
While the problem has been discovered and eliminated, there is no way to alleviate the damage that may have been done during the five-year span.
It is little wonder so many Americans enter various health care venues with concern and even fear. They are supposed to be getting that ounce of prevention and are terrified that they might end up with a pound, or more, of ineffective and even harmful cure.