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More than 200 people who went through hotel quarantine in Victoria must be screened for HIV amid fears of cross-contamination from incorrect usage of blood glucose test devices.
Several such devices were used on multiple people in quarantine between 29 March and 20 August, necessitating screenings for blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis B and C and HIV.
These monitors, which take a small sample of blood from a fingertip, are intended for repeated use by only one person. While the needle is changed between usages, microscopic traces of blood can remain within the body of the machine, creating a low clinical risk of cross-contamination and infection.
Safer Care Victoria, the state’s healthcare quality and safety agency, has assured the public there is no risk of Covid-19 spread as the disease is not transmitted by blood.
These devices have since been taken out of circulation.
In a statement, a spokesman for the agency said they have identified 243 people who had been tested by one of the shared machines during the timeframe in question, and will be contacted for screening. Everyone “who had conditions or episodes that may have required the test will also be contacted as a precaution”.
The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, labelled the incident a “clinical error that was made some time ago”.
“Safer Care Victoria have made some announcements in relation to a clinical error that was made some time ago, very low risk, but you can’t take any risks with these things. You have to follow them up properly and that’s exactly what has happened,” he said at a press conference on Tuesday.
The health minister, Martin Foley, noted there was currently no evidence of anyone being infected, but the breach was identified and flagged by nurses at the Alfred hospital in August.
He said Safer Care Victoria and the Department of Human and Health Services then went through 28,000 medical records to find all those potentially at risk, a process which took several weeks.
“I need to stress that this is, according to all the clinical advice, a very, very low risk of cross-contamination but, out of an abundance of caution, Safer Care Victoria and the Alfred are doing precisely the right thing,” he said.
He said 141 people had already been contacted and 71 have been tested so far.
Victoria’s hotel quarantine system has been plagued by infection control issues, with an independent inquiry hearing that upwards of 90% of the state’s second wave of Covid-19 cases stemmed from an outbreak in the hotels.
Two senior government figures have already resigned over the system’s handling, former health minister Jenny Mikakos and the secretary of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, Chris Eccles.
The Safer Care Victoria chief executive, Ann Maree Keenan, said there would be a “full review into how and why this device came to be in use”.
“The health of past quarantine residents is our immediate concern, so arranging screening for them is our absolute priority. The clinical risk is low. But if you are at all worried you had this test – and we have not contacted you yet – please call us,” she said.
“Right now, we won’t be able to answer the many questions people will have about how this happened … I hope that we will be able to bring peace of mind through getting people in for testing and through the findings of our review.”
Blood glucose tests are most commonly used by people with diabetes, but those with this medical condition are more likely to have been using their own personal device.
Instead, Safer Care is concerned that the shared devices may have been used on pregnant women, people who fainted or people who were are generally unwell during their stay in hotel quarantine.
Everyone one who went through hotel quarantine who had a blood glucose test, or had any medical episode that may have required a test, is being asked to call 1800 356 061 to arrange a time for a screening.
Source: The Guardian
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