RIMS nurses reuse syringes, expose patients to infection

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Nurses at the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) reuse syringes, exposing patients to the risk of infections, an internal inspection found.

The hospital’s internal inspection team on Monday found a dozen syringes allegedly reused on patients at the medicine ward of Jharkhand’s premier state-run medical institution.

“I was shocked to find used syringes kept at bedside tables and tucked under newspapers or above switch boards. The nurses were taken aback by the surprise inspection. They were speechless,” said RIMS matron Vijaya Lakshmi, who led the two-member team after complaints reached her office on Friday.

Patients complained that the nurses administered injections with the same syringe without sterilisation several times a day.

Showing the team four syringes, a patient Vikas Singh said, “Nurses asked us to keep the syringes. They told us not to dispose them. I had no idea they had put my ailing mother at risk.”

Reena Devi, another patient, said as the matron pulled a used syringe from under a newspaper, “How will I know that a syringe has to be used once? I kept it because nurses asked me to.”

The hospital matron passed a diktat of cutting salaries if nurses were caught reusing syringes.

Some junior nurses grilled at the spot said they handed over the syringes to the patients for disposal. However, according to World Health Organisation and bio-medical disposal norms, syringes once used must be instantly burned in the syringe crusher and those disposed in specially marked bins must be sent to the shredder at a bio-medical disposal plant

Director-in-chief Indian Public Health Services Dr Sumant Mishra said, “There is a risk of Hepatitis B and also HIV spreading through reuse, apart from infections like tetanus. In the hospital all syringes are for one-time (use and dispose) use, while smart syringes that lock after use are used in large scale immunisation rounds.”

Last year there were two cases, in July and September, where nurses in four wards at RIMS where caught reusing syringes several times. Three cases each were also reported in 2013 and 2014. In 2013 WHO estimated that two-thirds of 600 crore injections used in India every year are unsafe.

“It is unclear why nurses indulge in the malpractice. Syringes are supplied by the hospital. And there are clear instructions they should be destroyed in the WHO provided injection crusher after using once,” said Lakshmi.

A senior RIMS official said there was a racket of selling fresh syringes to retail outlets.

But the matron said, “I am unaware of such a racket.”

The RIMS administration has given assurances of forming a committee to look into the matter.

RIMS director BL Sherwal said, “It is a shameful if it is happening. I will speak to all heads of departments to check the practice. It can lead to a host of infections.” He said there was no dearth of syringes at hospitals.

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