Many Physicians’ Offices Behind Hospitals in Needlestick Safety

September 26, 2014

For hospitals and larger medical organisations it is difficult to not be up-to-date with the latest protocol and meeting the required standard for needlestick safety. This is because there are so many bodies and organisations that monitor the practices of hospitals, as well as the high number of healthcare professionals within the medical setting itself. However, it can be much easier for smaller, independent physicians' offices to slip through the net and not have the correct safety measures in place.

Gina Pugliese, vice president of Premier Safety Institute, cited statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which highlight that of the 600,000 estimated needlestick injuries occurring each year in the US, some 200,000 happen outside the traditional hospital setting. This could be anywhere from physicians' offices, clinics or home care, according to a report from Repertoire Mag.

According to the law, these healthcare professionals have the same responsibility to adapt sharps safety legislation as hospitals and larger organisations, but the independent nature of them can mean that the appropriate preventative measures are not in place.

Like other medical settings, the offices of physicians are required to have safety devices in use wherever possible. Indeed, even solo practitioners must have an Exposure Control Plan in place to detail the measures an employer must take to minimise or completely eliminate the risk of any staff members to bloodborne pathogens and needlestick injuries.

Ms Pugliese told the news provider that US law dictates that these smaller medical environments must also gain insight from employees about what safety products to include. 

However, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has often focused its efforts on larger healthcare facilities. “This enforcement strategy has encouraged hospitals to switch to safety-engineered devices,” said Ms Pugliese, but now the body are looking more closely at smaller practices and outpatient clinics. 

“The key question is not, ‘Who is using what?’ but rather, ‘Is the risk different enough to warrant not using safety-engineered devices in physician offices?’” she said. 

“For example, the risk from a needlestick incurred during phlebotomy is the same, regardless of whether it is performed in a hospital or in an office.”

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