A New York hospital is going to great lengths to contact its patients and recommend they seek immediate testing for hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV.

South Nassau Communities Hospital is sending out 4,247 letters to patients to notify them of potential risk of a serious infection from an insulin pen.

According to a March 11 Long Island Newsday article, the facility informed patients that they may have received insulin from “an insulin pen reservoir – not the pen’s single-use disposable needle – that could have been used with more than one patient.” The letter from the hospital to patients is dated Feb. 22.

The article quotes the South Nassau Communities Hospital as saying the risk of infection for the facility’s patients is “extremely low.” A hospital spokesman noted that no one was seen reusing the insulin pen reservoir on multiple patients, but a nurse reportedly said it was okay to do so.

Upon news that a staff member made such a claim, the hospital made a report to the state Department of Health and decided to move forward with notifying the patients via letter. The last of the letters is expected to reach patients by next Monday, March 17. It urges patients to get tested, but notes that the testing is voluntary.

In light of the situation, the hospital has banned the use of insulin pens. Only single-patient-use vials are permitted at South Nassau Communities Hospital.

This story comes just months after it was reported that 400 patients of a Spokane, Wash. surgery center were advised by the state Health Department to get blood tests because of unsafe practices involving medicine and syringes at the center between 2006 and last April. In that case, an inspection by the Health Department discovered a surgical technologist was reusing syringes and (possibly) single-use vials of medicine.

The surgical center took issue with the Health Department’s findings and said they revolved around a misunderstanding related to an interview with an employee. Additionally, a Health Department spokesperson said the risk for infection was low.

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