210 Fort Collins patients may have been exposed to hepatitis C

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FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Though administrators stressed that the notifications were only precautionary, the Poudre Valley Hospital (PVH) confirmed that letters have been mailed to 210 adult patients who may have been exposed to hepatitis C.

The letter is urging the patients, all of whom were treated in the hospital’s Intensive Care unit between Sept. 1, 2011 and Aug. 28, 2012, to get tested for hepatitis C. However, hospital administrators said there had not yet been a reported case of a patient contracting hepatitis C at the hospital as of Monday morning.

The reason for the concern, the hospital indicated, stems from the actions of a former employee, who is suspected of diverting prescription painkillers and may have done so while suffering from hepatitis C. That ex-employee’s actions, hospital administrators indicated, may have put some patients at risk for exposure to hepatitis C.

“When PVH discovered the allegations of drug diversion, the employee was immediately suspended and has since been fired,” hospital spokesperson Dan Weaver said.

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne disease that affects the liver. Someone must have contact with an infected person’s blood to contract the disease. While it isn’t likely that any of the hospital’s patients contracted the disease in this case, hospital president and CEO Kevin Unger said administrators were “concerned” about the possibility.

“Some of the diverted medications were injectable narcotics that we believe were headed for the trash,” Unger said. “We don’t have any evidence that patients were harmed or infected with hepatitis C, but we want to be sure of that.”

Letters have been mailed to 210 adult, PVH ICU patients who received IV painkillers in the ICU during the established time period, and certain others who received these painkillers in connection with the ICU care team.

Those patients will receive free, confidential testing and are being asked to schedule appoints as soon as possible.

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