Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Massachusetts hospital patients were possibly exposed to HIV, hepatitis while undergoing endoscopy

Salem Hospital, part of the North Shore Medical Center, Feb. 20, 2021, in Salem, Mass.  (Nicolaus Czarnecki/Boston Herald/TNS)
By Lance Reynolds Boston Herald

Hundreds of Massachusetts hospital patients are on high alert after officials said they may have been exposed to hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV during a medical imaging procedure.

Salem Hospital officials revealed on Wednesday that roughly 450 patients receiving an endoscopy between June 2021 and April 2023 were potentially exposed during the administration of IV medications “in a manner not consistent with our best practice.”

An endoscopy is a medical imaging procedure in which doctors use a tube to look at internal organs.

A statement from the hospital highlighting the development on Wednesday did not provide details on how the exposure may have occurred and how it was corrected. Officials remained mum about specifics on Thursday.

After becoming aware of the issue earlier this year, officials said they fixed the practice and notified its quality and infection control teams.

“Salem Hospital has notified all potentially impacted patients, set up a clinician-staffed hotline to answer questions, and we are providing them with free screening and any necessary support,” officials said in a statement. “There is no evidence to date of any infections resulting from this incident.”

The hospital has been working with the state Department of Public Health in managing the situation, with the department conducting an onsite investigation.

A department spokesperson told news outlets that the department also advised the hospital “to offer free-of-charge follow-up care, including testing.”

The tests being offered are “standard tests for an exposure of this kind because they are common blood-borne pathogenic viruses that often don’t produce symptomatic infection,” a hospital spokesperson said.

Hepatitis B and C as well as HIV are blood-borne viruses that some people carry and can be spread from one person to another. Hepatitis B and C are treatable with antiviral medications, and while HIV is not curable, it can be managed with antiretroviral therapy.

Mass General Brigham owns Salem Hospital.

“The safety of our patients is our highest priority, and we have undertaken multiple corrective actions in response to this event,” a company spokesperson said. “We sincerely apologize to those who have been impacted, and we remain committed to delivering high-quality, compassionate health care to our community.”