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As a nursing home reform activist who also happens to be a diabetic, I was truly disgusted to learn about yet another sign that  either extremely greedy and/or very dumb people are in charge of (or offering nursing care) to nursing home residents these days! Because of my experience with them for many years, it takes a lot to disgust me when it comes to things having to do with the nursing home industry, but this news item really got my goat!

The headline for a news story posted on the Internet this past week read, “Fingerstick Device Infection Warning Issued by FDA and CDC” (FDA = Food & Drug Administration. CDC = Centers for Disease Control). You know what a “fingerstick device” is, right? This device has a needle that is used to stick fingers (or sometimes forearms) to draw a blood sample that is used to check a person’s blood sugar.

The needle inside a fingerstick device is commonly referred to as a “lancet”. The device is reusable, but the needline (lancet) inside is supposed to be deposed of after just one use (which means that it — the lancet — should never be used on more than one patient).

It turns out that FDA and CDC regulators have found the need to warn nursing homes in response to an alarming increase in the number of infections — many end up needing to be treated in a hospital setting — caused by using ONE lancet on MULTIPLE patients!

It is one of the cardinal rules of infection control to NEVER re-use disposable needles of any kind — especially NEVER use the SAME needle on MORE THAN ONE patient! This is not only good medicine, it is also common sense!

FDA and CDC officials say they have observed a steadily increasing number of blood borne infections over the past 10 to 15 years caused by the re-use of lancets. (I’ll bet ya’ that the number of nursing homes owned by large for-profit corporations has increased dramatically during this same time period!) The most notable increase during this period has been the spread of Hepatitis B infections in nursing homes, both in long-term care and assisted living settings.

At best it is criminal negligence and gross stupidity on the part of any nursing staff member who would re-use a lancet!

If, on the other hand, lancets are being re-used INTENTIONALLY under the direction of nursing home management, that is also clearly a case of criminal negligence and gross stupidity!

A nurse or CNA who doesn’t report to the state an order from management to re-use these lancets is enabling criminal negligence and gross stupidity.

Why would I claim that the intentional re-use (from one resident to another) of these lancets (a/k/a “fingerstick devices”) is somehow related to corporate greed on the part of the nursing home industry?  Because we’re talking about an item that costs LESS THAN ONE CENT EACH! How cheap can these corporate bean counters get? They can’t afford to use a new lancet each time they stick a nursing home resident? PLEASE!!!

When the average cost of nursing home care is approaching nearly $200.00 per patient/per day, you know they CAN afford a new lancet each time. And you can be sure that Medicare, Medicaid or other insurances (and NOT the greedy nursing home industry) are going to be paying out the nose to treat Hepatitis B and other infections caused by the re-use of these ONE CENT needles!

Re-using single use, disposable needles…yet another sign that the nursing home industry continues stick it to the residents entrusted to their care!

Nursing Home News Watch

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