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New needles help avoid infection

August 27, 1997

By MARLO BARNHART

Staff Writer

Last fall, a young nurse gave a moving talk to doctors and nurses at Washington County Hospital of how she contracted AIDS from an accidental needle stick at her Lancaster, Pa., hospital.

Since then, all of the old catheters at the hospital in Hagerstown have been replaced with an advanced model that will prevent such a tragedy.

"We made the decision for the safety of our health care employees," said Kathy Morrisey, infection control practitioner.

The difference in the cost is triple, Morrisey said, noting the hospital purchases about 54,000 catheters a year.

The old catheters - which were bare needles going in and bare needles coming out - cost 58 cents each, Morrisey said, for a total annual cost of $29,160.

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"The new catheters are sheathed when they are removed from the patients, to prevent accidental needle sticks," Morrisey said.

They are still bare needles going in, Morrisey said, but at that point, the needles are uncontaminated.

The newer catheters are $1.69 apiece, or a total of $91,260 a year. The difference is $62,100.

Lynda Arnold's life five years ago was far removed from the lifestyle often associated with the deadly AIDS virus.

She spoke last October to nurses and doctors at Washington County Hospital on how they can better protect themselves on the job. "That day in September 1992, I crossed the barrier between them and us," Arnold said last fall.

She was working with a patient who, unbeknownst to her, was dying of AIDS.

He jerked his arm as she was removing a catheter from his arm. That action drove the needle into her palm, through her protective glove.

It took seven months for Arnold to show up positive on an AIDS test - and her world fell apart for a while.

She later founded the National Campaign for Health Workers Safety, which strives for strict adherence to universal safety precautions and improvements in equipment for nurses and doctors.

Contacted at campaign headquarters, Arnold said she is continuing her efforts to convince hospitals to do just what Washington County Hospital has now done.

At Washington County Hospital, safety is a major concern, Morrisey said.

No one has ever contracted AIDS from a needle stick at the hospital, Morrisey said.

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