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Horizon discloses low-risk patient safety issue

(MIRAMICHI) August 28, 2013 - Horizon Health Network is advising former patients and the public of a low-risk, patient safety issue that occurred at the colposcopy clinic at the Miramichi Regional Hospital. Horizon Health Network is disclosing the issue as part of its full disclosure policy, and as part of its commitment to quality patient care.

On May 24, 2013, Horizon Health Network discovered that the disinfection of biopsy forceps in the colposcopy clinic at the Miramichi Regional Hospital was not consistently meeting recommended standards.

From May, 1999 to May 24, 2013, the cleaning and disinfection method used on colposcopy biopsy forceps involved either a high-level disinfection or sterilization. The recommendation is to always sterilize the forceps. However, it is important to note that high-level disinfection process destroys 99.99 per cent of blood-borne pathogens such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV. 

John McGarry, President and CEO of Horizon Health Network, informed 2,497 patients of the issue by registered letter today.

Not all patients who attended the colposcopy clinic are affected. Patients who required a biopsy as part of their colposcopy procedure are involved. They have been notified of the issue; of the extremely low risk of infection; and are being offered the opportunity to have a blood test.

"Once the error was discovered, we took immediate action to ensure the recommended standard was put in place," said McGarry, adding, "While we are assured the risk of infection is extremely low, Horizon Health Network believes it is our responsibility to inform our patients of any potential exposure to risks. We sincerely apologize for the error and assure you that your well-being is our main concern."

Dr. Gordon Dow, Infectious Disease Consultant with The Moncton Hospital indicated Horizon Health Network consulted with external infection control physician expert to determine the potential risk of infection.

"It is important to note that in this instance the risk of infection is extremely low," he said. "The estimated risk of contracting hepatitis B is 1 in 47,000 procedures; however the risk of becoming ill is 1 in 156,000 procedures. The risk of contracting hepatitis C or HIV is less than one in a million procedures when using high-level disinfection cleaning."

Colposcopy is a medical diagnostic procedure to exam the cervix, vagina and vulva and is usually performed on women who have abnormal Pap test results. The procedure is used to prevent cervical cancer through early detection and treatment of precancerous lesions. Not all colposcopies require the use of the biopsy forceps.

Patients can contact their family physician or call a toll-free line for general inquiries at 1-866-522-6153 for more information. As well, information is also available on the Horizon website at


For more information contact:
Carole Saucier
Media Relations

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