April 2014

When Journalists Make a Difference by Lauren Lollini

Lauren is one of many Coloradans infected with Hepatitis C from a hospital outbreak in 2009.
Lauren is one of many Coloradans infected with Hepatitis C from a hospital outbreak in 2009.

Once again the journalist got it right; and not just right, dead center, hitting the issue squarely between the eyes. I am referring to the 4/15/14 (4/16/14 print) USA Today article by Peter Eisler highlighting the dilemma of addicted healthcare workers and drug diversion. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/04/15/doctors-addicted-drugs-health-care-diversion/7588401/
Not only does Eisler get to the heart of the matter stating that addicted healthcare workers often go unnoticed enabling them to wreak havoc not on themselves but the patients they treat, but he makes it clear that the system is broken and far too many episodes of drug diversion are happening all around us. Truly the highlight of the article is his focus on the solutions.

Ah, such a relief to not just hear the cold facts but to have an emphasis on what we can do fix these problems. While the incidence of addiction in healthcare settings is roughly about what it is in society as a whole, the chance to do harm is far greater as the article so aptly points out. Addicted healthcare workers may not even know they are causing problems or get the help they require. Eisler states, “Much of the damage goes unnoticed or undocumented; systems to detect, report and address drug problems in health care settings are haphazard and limited.”
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Meeting with patients in North Dakota

Steve Langan, director of HONOReform, is meeting with people affected by the North Dakota outbreak today
Steve Langan, director of HONOReform, is meeting with people affected by the North Dakota outbreak today

We send our best wishes in a special way today to our friends in Minot, North Dakota. Minot is the location of a healthcare-assoicated outbreak of Hepatitis C in which 44 residents of a nursing home were infected. Public health officials continue to investigate, but the exact cause is a mystery at this time. We send our best wishes for the good health and comfort for all the victims and their families.

I well remember those days of questions and confusion. When I found out I had Hepatitis C in early 2002, my husband and I were so stigmatized by the diagnosis that we told no one. We were alone in our worry and puzzlement. It wasn’t until several years later, after the public health investigation and discovery of facts through litigation, that we understood the cause and magnitude of the Nebraska Hepatitis C outbreak. The community was shocked that 99 people had been infected through re-use of syringes during chemotherapy at our local oncology clinic.

Once I learned that we had contracted this deadly disease through healthcare services, I let go of my feelings of stigma. Having Hepatitis C caused many difficult emotions, but shame was not one of them. I was frightened, confused and angry. I mourned the loss of good health, peace of mind and confidence in our healthcare system. I was overwhelmed with the amount of new information I had to process and the decisions I had to make regarding my health, my family’s welfare, my finances, and possible legal recourse.

Members of our community hosted several information sessions to address these questions. Some of us formed an informal support group. We learned to cope in the years following the Nebraska outbreak. I believe that the people of the North Dakota outbreak will as well. And we want to help you learn to cope.

At HONOReform, our primary aim is the elimination of outbreaks caused by lack of adherence to national injection safety standards. But, despite robust national awareness and advocacy for injection safety, outbreaks continue to occur. We offer our support to the people who are affected by outbreaks. We are glad for the opportunity—which is a privilege and at the center of our mission—to help support patients and communities as they learn to cope with the many consequences of an outbreak.

Steve Langan, executive director of HONOReform, is in Minot today, Monday, April 21. He would like to meet with Hepatitis C outbreak victims and family members to determine their needs and goals – and to see how HONOReform can help.

He will be meeting with victims/family members at the Hyatt House, which is located in north Minot at the junction of the 83 Bypass & 21st Avenue NW (2301 Landmark Drive). Steve will be available from 11-1 and 4-6 in the Hyatt’s gathering room (take a right after you enter the building and it is just a few steps down the hall). For those who cannot see Steve at Hyatt House, it is possible to schedule an appointment for him to come to them (between 1 and 4 pm and after 6 pm). Steve’s direct phone number is 402.659.6343 and his email address is steve@www.HONOReform.org. We encourage everyone to contact him anytime.

HONOReform Thanks Journalists for Helping Educate Communities on the Importance of Injection Safety

Jim Olson of KXMC Minot, ND did a series of article on the Minot, ND investigation
Jim Olson of KXMC Minot, ND did a series of articles on the Minot, ND investigation

We salute and commend our colleagues in the media—journalists, bloggers, hosts of television and radio programs—for their thorough support over the years for the need for injection safety. The patient notifications and confirmed outbreaks that move HONOReform and our many partners to take action have, sadly, become fairly regular occurrences. For us.

But in communities that are affected by a patient notification or a tragic outbreak caused by unsafe injection practices, it is brand new territory. These incidents defy credulity. How could this happen? This couldn’t happen here! This is a developing countries problem!

These are some of the comments we regularly hear. We understand. We have been there ourselves.

Thanks to the excellent engaged Safe Injection Practices Coalition, which is led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a variety of excellent materials are in place. The One and Only Campaign is an excellent resource—and one that we share straightaway with members of the media, whenever we are involved in a discussion on injection safety.

We encourage you to review the One and Only Campaign Resources: http://www.oneandonlycampaign.org/campaign_resources
and, if you are a healthcare provider, put these valuable materials in place in your institution.

On December 2, 2013, our executive director, Steve Langan, wrote a blog piece titled “HONOResponse: Why the North Dakota investigation is Representative.” We had just learned of this incident; we were trying our best to gather all the facts…and determine how best we could take actions to support victims and the overall community.

Thanks in part to the journalists in the community, including Jim Olson of KXMC, more of the facts of this outbreak, from which 44 North Dakotans have been infected with viral hepatitis, have become known. And there was a recent community meeting, during which family and community members came together to support one another—and consider ways to work together going forward.

It is our pleasure to share links to the recent KXMC stories:

“I am grateful to the many journalists who have taken time to understand our mission, and embrace it,” said Evelyn McKnight. “I also want to commend patient and family advocates, including Jan Laudenschlager and Tam Black of North Dakota, who regularly share their story. These powerful stories need to be heard, and they drive policy makers, public health leaders and healthcare workers to make necessary changes.”
(On an upcoming HONOReform blog, Jan and Tam will tell their story.)

HONOReform will be present in Minot on Monday, April 21, to meet with patients, their family members and members of the community. For more information contact Steve Langan, 402.659.6343 or steve@www.HONOReform.org.

Thank you for doing all you can to prevent unsafe injection practices.

Let me talk a little bit about Patty Skolnik by Lauren Lollini

Patty Skolnik, Founder, Citizens for Patient Safety
Patty Skolnik, Founder, Citizens for Patient Safety

It has been five years since I have heard those life changing words, “You have Hepatitis C…” so the irony and gratitude to be meeting with Patty Skolnik was not lost on me.  Patty is a warm and caring woman who took me under her wing shortly after my decision to reach out and become a patient safety advocate.  I remember our first meeting like it was yesterday, converging on Capitol Hill to speak out about healthcare and tort reform and to tell stories of healthcare tragedies in order to raise awareness.  We sat in each meeting and as Patty spoke about her son Michael, who had died in 2004 following an unnecessary surgical procedure due to complications related to medical errors, I knew I had found a kindred spirit; someone with passion and energy and the need to change a broken system.

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