A Wisconsin hospital is going through the medical equivalent of that really awkward phone call where you reach out to an ex and disclose that you might have passed along something you didn't know you had.
Dean Clinic, of Madison, sent out a press release yesterday warning that sloppy work from a single employee might have exposed thousands of former patients to blood-borne diseases like Hepatitis B and C -- and HIV.
In its statement, Dean Clinic explained that the employee had been misusing needles from 2006 to 2011 as he or she demonstrated how patients could test their own insulin at home. It can probably be assumed that across the state of Wisconsin, personal injury lawyers smell potentially-tainted blood in the water.[jump]
Dean's statement said it was trying to contact 2,345 people who might have been exposed to bloodborne illnesses, and said it was willing to pick up the tab to figure out who's got what:
These patients will be receiving phone calls and letters from us. We have a team ready to answer patients' questions. We will also take responsibility for needed testing, we will coordinate follow-up care and support patients' needs.
Considering that the number of people possibly infected runs into the thousands, and that both Hepatitis and HIV are incurable, the total damage here could easily run into the millions of dollars -- not to mention the open-and-shut lawsuits for afflicted patients.
Dean Clinic also included an unfortunate phrase in its statement, referring to the years-long sloppiness as "an isolated incident." When the people possibly at risk could fill an entire section at a Wisconsin football game, it doesn't seem all that isolated.
While Dean is making its own efforts to locate current and former patients, any diabetic who's passed through their in the last five years should get themselves tested immediately, and free of charge, by contacting the clinic at 608-250-1393.