24 Arizona inmates potentially exposed to blood-borne pathogens by nurse, says healthcare provider

BUCKEYE, AZ - Twenty-four inmates at an Arizona state prison were potentially exposed to blood-borne pathogens after a nurse violated medical protocol while providing medical injections, said officials.

Blood-borne pathogens, viruses that can be transmitted through blood or other bodily fluids, include Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV.

The nurse has been suspended and medical staff is working to determine exactly what happened, said Susan Morgenstern, spokeswoman for Corizon, the health provider for the Arizona Department of Corrections.

The incident happened Sunday at three of the seven units of the Arizona State Prison Lewis complex in Buckeye, said Morgenstern. Officials said the nurse did not follow proper injection procedures, but did not elaborate further.

Officials met with the inmates Tuesday to answer their questions and provided preventative medication as a precautionary measure, she said.

Corizon is now developing a "corrective action plan" to prevent this from happening again, said Morgenstern.

Charles Ryan, director of the Arizona Department of Corrections, said the department "expects its healthcare provider, Corizon, to aggressively address any errors that are made in patient care."

Inmates at the same prison were possibly exposed to Hepatitis C in August 2012 after medication was given with a dirty needle. It's not known whether any of the inmates were infected.

A nurse had contaminated an insulin vial while injecting insulin into an inmate who had Hepatitis C. The nurse later used the contaminated vial to give insulin to other inmates, according to state prison records.

That incident involved a nurse who was working on behalf of Pittsburgh-based Wexford Health Sources Inc. State prison officials severed its ties with Wexford and then hired Corizon to handle health services at prisons in early 2013.

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