Unsafe Needles Pose Major Health Risk to Doctors, Nurses

Every year, nurses, physicians and other health care workers suffer an estimated 800,000 needlestick injuries in U.S. hospitals, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

More than 1,000 of these hospital workers become infected with HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C and other bloodborne diseases as a result.

Worse, the problem might be preventable with a potentially life-saving safety syringe, which has a retractable needle, developed in the early 1990s. In trials, nurses and doctors loved the syringe, and the National Institutes of Health awarded the manufacturer a grant to refine it.

However, due to a million-dollar agreement between hospital group purchasing organizations (GPOs) and a big needle maker, GPOs blocked the introduction of the new safety syringes to the market – as well as other medical innovations – in favor of unsafe standard needles.

The new movie Puncture explores this issue by focusing on a real-life example of a Houston emergency room nurse who died from AIDS after being pricked with an infected needle. The movie follows the story of two struggling lawyers hired by a manufacturer to find out why GPOs blocked him from selling his safety syringes.

Puncture filmmakers said the movie highlights a “massive problem” in America, where the best and most affordable medical devices aren’t always accessible, costing taxpayers more than $37 billion dollars per year.

Some progress has been made thanks to the Needle Safety and Prevention Act signed in 2000, which set requirements for employers to identify, evaluate and implement safer medical devices, as well as maintain injury logs for employees.

However, unsafe needles are still used throughout the country. The filmmakers said this is because the act did not fix the underlying problem, which is that GPOs continue to control the purchasing of medical supplies in the U.S.