'Nursing Practices' Could be to Blame for Putting Veterans at Risk for HIV Exposure

January 14, 2013 Updated Jan 15, 2013 at 12:35 PM EDT

By WKBW Admin

January 14, 2013 Updated Jan 15, 2013 at 12:35 PM EDT

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) -Hundreds of men and women who put their lives on the line to protect our country may have been exposed to the HIV virus here in Buffalo.

716 patients at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center on Bailey Avenue may have suffered exposure to serious blood-borne illnesses like HIV and Hepatitis-B and Hepatitis-C, according a memo by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Health officials at the hospital say a 'variation of nursing practices' while administering insulin for inpatient veterans may be to blame. The discovery happened during a routine pharmacy inspection on November 1st 2012, that uncovered insulin pens intended for one patient may have been used on multiple patients.

The disturbing discovery put more than 700 inpatient veterans who received this insulin from October 19th, 2010 to November 1st, 2012 at risk for exposure to HIV, Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C. Monday, hospital officials contacted the 570 living patients and urging them to come in for blood work.

"Insulin pens suppose to be used on a single patient through a variation of nursing practices may have been used on more than one patient," said Chief of Medicine Dr. Donald McDonald. "We don't know for certain if this variation of nursing practice occurred with them or not, but we're notifying everyone who could have received a dose with this nursing practice."

Health experts at the hospital say even though the disposable needles were changed each time, there is still a chance of infection, though extremely low.

"We always look to safety and ensure we're transparent so we provide the best care possible," added McDonald. "But whenever we find out that there maybe care that we feel is not appropriate we'll take step to notify patients that may have been impacted and also fix our practice."

Health officials would not elaborate on how this exactly happened. The hospital has stopping using insulin pens and has launched an internal investigation.