Massachusetts Hospital Faces Lawsuit Over Potential Hepatitis and HIV Exposure

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Salem Hospital faces a class action lawsuit over potential hepatitis and HIV exposure to hundreds of patients. The lawsuit alleges negligence and emotional distress, with the hospital claiming a minimal infection risk.

This article first appeared on our sister site Infection Control Today.

Massachusetts General Brigham and its facility, Salem Hospital, are facing a class action lawsuit after hundreds of patients were potentially exposed to hepatitis and HIV during routine care. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of endoscopy patient Melinda Cashman, who was among the up to 450 patients that may have been exposed to the viruses between June 2021 and April 2023.

While there is no evidence that any infections resulted from the exposures, Cashman's lawyers alleged the health system acted negligently, leading to her suffering "extreme anxiety and emotional distress and decreased quality of life."

Salem Hospital in Massachusetts sent out warning letters to 450 endoscopy patients last week, informing them of possible exposure to HIV and hepatitis due to incorrectly administered IVs. Following this, a class-action lawsuit has been initiated against the hospital, as well as Mass General Brigham, headquartered in Somerville, Massachusetts, and involving 10 hospital employees, as reported by USA Today on November 20.

What You Need to Know

Massachusetts General Brigham and Salem Hospital are facing a class-action lawsuit due to potential exposure of up to 450 patients to hepatitis and HIV between June 2021 and April 2023 during routine care.

Salem Hospital sent warning letters to 450 endoscopy patients, informing them of possible exposure to HIV and hepatitis due to incorrectly administered IVs.

Massachusetts General Brigham is collaborating with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, which will conduct an onsite investigation into Salem Hospital's quality control practices.

The hospital notified possibly impacted patients earlier this month after the facility was made aware earlier this year of an "isolated practice" that could have led to viral transmission. Massachusetts General Brigham stated, "Once identified, the practice was immediately corrected, and the hospital’s quality and infection control teams were notified." Patients were potentially exposed after intravenous medication was administered "in a manner not consistent with our best practice."

In the lawsuit filed in Suffolk County Superior Court, Cashman's attorneys seek monetary damages for the health system's negligence, claiming that their client and patients like her sustained "severe and permanent emotional distress" as a result of the incident. They argue that she and others impacted may experience disruptions to relationships, increased medical bills, and a new need for significant mental health treatment.

Massachusetts General Brigham is also working with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, which will conduct an onsite investigation into Salem’s quality control practices. Potentially impacted patients can call a clinician-staffed hotline with questions and receive free screening for the viruses.

Salem Hospital said in a statement that the infection risk is "extremely small," and so far, no infections have been reported.

The lawsuit is seeking a jury trial.

A spokesperson from Massachusetts General Brigham informed the AP that they are conducting standard tests for Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and HIV in response to the potential exposure incident.

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