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Another Tribal Community possibly exposed to deadly viruses

Posted by tw on October 7, 2010 at 6:11 PM

New information about another Indian Health Services clinic where Tribal members were possibly exposed to deadly viruses. KSWT News 13's Jennifer Jones first broke this story Monday afternoon about Fort Yuma Hospital patients possibly exposed.

Another possible exposure of HIV, Hepatitis B and C, has been detected at an Indian Health Services clinic in Oklahoma.

"We find it kind of interesting that it's 2 IHS facilities." Thomas Jordan is a newspaper journalist for the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians of Oklahoma. He tells us, Indian Health Services put an ad in their newspaper contacting potential victims to come forward. This after the clinic's administration became aware of a malfunction in their sterilizing machine in July. "He said that his staff contacted all the patients that could have been possibly affected and notified them of the possible exposure" says Jordan.

However Jordan says they're getting conflicting information. Some patients say they were never informed why they were being tested. "At the same time were investigating a lead right now that the patients were not initially informed that they may have been exposed to HIV, It was the medicine that they were given that tipped them off that they may have been exposed to it" says Jordan.

Patients in Oklahoma aren't the only ones who feel Indian Health Services is covering up the exposure.

In the confidential documents KSWT exclusively obtained from the Quechan Tribal community meeting on Saturday, Council members discussed the possibility of a cover-up by Indian Health Services. The documents also state the tribe was informed nearly 2 years after the exposure took place.

But Indian Health Services says the tribe was made aware through email immediately after it was detected last summer. "Since then I'm not sure how much communication has occurred around this because a lot of the time was spent waiting for a report from APIC" says Dr. Charles Reidhead, the Chief Medical Examiner for IHS Phoenix Region.

Indian Health Services says APIC is the agency that has been investigating Ft. Yuma's incident since June of last year after a nurse realized they were only manually cleaning instruments and not sterilizing them. A serious breach of safety standards which the Quechan tribe states constitutes gross negligence on Indian Health Services.

So far no one has tested positive for any of the viruses.

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