Concord, NH – The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Division of Public Health Services (DPHS) is today releasing its final report into the hepatitis C outbreak first reported to DPHS at Exeter Hospital May 15, 2012. DPHS’ investigation has determined that 32 patients treated at Exeter Hospital were infected by the former healthcare worker who has been charged in connection with transmission of the virus through drug diversion.
“This is a very comprehensive report that covers all the actions DPHS has taken, the work done by the public health investigation team, the clinic operations, along with our collaboration with federal and other state partners,” said NH State Epidemiologist Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis. “We have also made a series of recommendations for other healthcare institutions on how to possibly prevent such an outbreak in the future.”
In all, more than 4,700 patients were indicated for testing. Of that number 3,753 were tested for exposure to hepatitis C. The report details the testing of patients, on-site investigations into procedures at Exeter Hospital, interviews of employees, the operating of clinics, as well as the complicated procedures surrounding testing for hepatitis C and the work performed by the NH Public Health Lab.
The report details DPHS’ recommendations in order to help reduce the likelihood of outbreaks of a similar nature occurring in the future, including:
- Increase regulation and improve information sharing regarding traveling healthcare workers, especially allied healthcare workers
- Ensure monitored and limited access to controlled substances in healthcare settings.
- Closer monitoring of employee access to restricted areas during procedures
- Ensure real time accountability for controlled substances before, during and after procedures including any medication that isn’t used
- Develop a clear and concise plan for prevention and early detection of drug diversion. This includes a dedicated staff, clear policy that is enforced, education of all staff on signs and symptoms to look for, and confidential ways for staff to report any suspicious behavior to the drug diversion team
“The quality of healthcare in New Hampshire is among the best in the country,” said Dr. Alroy-Preis, “and the criminal actions of one individual are not reflective of the system as a whole. They do, however, demonstrate that the system is not perfect and requires both healthcare and public health to remain vigilant for ways to improve patient care.”
DPHS will hold a community meeting to share this report and give the public a chance to ask questions on Monday, June 24th at 6 PM at Exeter High School.
To read the report visit: www.dhhs.nh.gov/dphs/cdcs/hepatitisc/hepc-investigation.htm