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Quebec hospital to screen patients for HIV, hepatitis after equipment problems

The Hotel Dieu Hospital is shown Monday, June 3, 2013 in Levis, Que.

Jacques Boissinot/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Health authorities in the city of Lévis are urging 1,000 patients who were recently tested for digestive problems to undergo preventive screening for possible health threatening infections due to faulty endoscopic equipment.

The authorities said that patients may have been infected as far back as eight years ago with the HIV virus, hepatitis B and hepatitis C after equipment used primarily to examine digestive passages, such as the esophagus and stomach, was improperly disinfected.

Hôtel-Dieu hospital authorities in Lévis explained that despite disinfection procedures, a leak in the equipment may have contaminated the device. The problem, discovered in a tube used during the endoscopic procedure, could have occurred as far back as 2005 when the equipment was first purchased.

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François Aumont, director of professional services at the Hôtel-Dieu hospital in Lévis, just south of Quebec City, said the risks of infection were minimal but that the health authorities weren't taking any chances.

"The risk is small but the potential infections are serious and are treatable. So we have decided to undertake a preventive screening of the patients. We have been able to retrieve all of the patients who have undergone an endoscopic procedure," Mr. Aumont said.

He explained that the patients who were in contact with the faulty equipment will be personally contacted by registered mail next week to set an appointment for the preventive screening.

The vast majority of the patients, about 70 per cent, are from the Quebec City-Lévis regions, and the others are from other regions of the province.

The hospital has set up a call centre to answer all questions of concerned patients who may have undergone an endoscopic procedure at the hospital.

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