Review blames old habits for reuse of dirty syringes

CALGARY — Isolation and old habits were the main reasons why a remote northern Alberta hospital recycled syringes that were meant to be used only once, says a report by the province’s health watchdog.

CALGARY — Isolation and old habits were the main reasons why a remote northern Alberta hospital recycled syringes that were meant to be used only once, says a report by the province’s health watchdog.

The report concludes staff at the High Prairie Health Complex were unaware it was no longer a medical practice to reuse needles to inject medicines into intravenous tubes.

“In this rural setting, they had become isolated from the evolution of these standards,” Dr. John Cowell of the Health Quality Council of Alberta said Tuesday.

“This was a failure of education and being aware of standards and working fundamentally in isolation from the rest of the system.”

But Cowell added that didn’t let the hospital off the hook.

“Regardless of where your location is, you must be aware of changing standards.”

The report recommends closer monitoring of far-flung facilities and better staff training.

Last fall, provincial officials revealed that hundreds of patients at the hospital would need to be tested for blood-borne diseases after it was learned that nurses were reusing syringes, which were intended to be used once and discarded.

The needles were used to inject IV tubes and were never directly used on patients. Still, Alberta Health Services tested about 1,500 dental and endoscopic patients for diseases from HIV to hepatitis. No infections related to the used syringes were found.

The practice introduces a remote chance of both infection and mis-medication and was largely phased out nearly a decade ago, the council found.

But, somehow, High Prairie never got the message.

The report blames a local “culture of autonomy” that was “linked with physical isolation from external influences” for the survival of techniques banned everywhere else. It also says some nurses didn’t entirely understand the intravenous equipment.

The council recommends the province tighten up reporting and review requirements to make sure all facilities use best practices.

“We think it’s a combination of the administration as well as the professions not being enabled to stay up-to-date,” Cowell said.

Last year’s elimination of regional health boards in favour of one provincial “superboard” should help ensure knowledge is up-to-date across Alberta, said Health Department spokesman John Tuckwell.

Cowell said that in an age of electronic communications, there’s no reason for any geographic area to remain isolated.

The High Prairie case also initiated a risk review in several Saskatchewan hospitals into the reuse of needles. The findings are expected to be released in August.

— By Bob Weber in Edmonton

Just Posted

PHOTO: Rainbow Block Party at Red Deer’s West Park

The Trans and Non-Binary Aid Society hosted a Rainbow Block Party at… Continue reading

Blood donations needed in Central Alberta: Canadian Blood Services

357 donors are needed before Aug. 26 at the Red Deer clinic

WATCH: Annual Family Picnic at Central Spray and Play

Blue Grass Sod Farms Ltd. held the Annual Family Picnic at the… Continue reading

Photos: Smoky conditions in Red Deer

Red Deer and area is experiencing high risk air quality.See related: Red… Continue reading

Committee to decide how millions in Humboldt Broncos donations are split

SASKATOON — Lawyers for the families of some of those who died… Continue reading

Boy, 11, dies after being struck by payloader on southern Alberta ranch

BOW ISLAND, Alta. — A boy has died after an accident on… Continue reading

Liberals look at creating federal holiday to mark legacy of residential schools

OTTAWA — The federal Liberal government wants to establish a holiday to… Continue reading

Thousands of police officers expected at regimental funeral in Fredericton

FREDERICTON — Thousands of police officers and first responders from across the… Continue reading

B.C. declares state of emergency over wildfires

VICTORIA — The British Columbia government has declared a provincial state of… Continue reading

As service refusals make headlines, experts say businesses usually in the wrong

Two Canadian businesses that recently made headlines for refusing customers have learned… Continue reading

Irregular asylum claims increased in July after two months of decline

OTTAWA — The number of irregular border crossers in Canada went up… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month