A Stamford lawyer has filed a class-action lawsuit against Griffin Hospital in Derby on behalf of more than 3,100 former patients who may face HIV or other blood-borne diseases as a result of hospital employees using the same insulin injection pens on patient after patient.
“More than 3,100 people are now going through emotional distress after being notified that not only could they have a potentially deadly disease, but could be passing it to a spouse,” said Ernest Teitell, who filed the suit — the largest of its kind — in state Superior Court in Waterbury.
“In accordance with our hospital policy, we respectfully decline to comment on ongoing litigation,” said Christian Meagher, spokesman for the hospital.
While a figure was not available, legal experts say lawsuits like this can end up costing millions of dollars.
On May 16, 2014, Griffin Hospital CEO Patrick Charmel sent a letter to 3,149 former patients stating: “It has identified the possibility that insulin pens ordered for patients hospitalized between Sept. 1, 2008, and May 7, 2014, may have been misused.”
Insulin pens are injector devices that contain a multi-dose vial of insulin. The pens are intended for single-person use only and are designed to allow for the delivery of multiple doses.
The single-use, retractable needle that attaches to the insulin pen is removable, allowing reuse of the pen-like injector with a new sterile safety needle for each use.
However, even when using a new needle, the possibility exists that a pen’s insulin cartridge can be contaminated through the backwash of blood or skin cells from one patient, and thus could potentially transmit an infection, such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV if used on another patient.
The hospital offered free testing, encouraging former patients to come in.
“Any patient testing positive for one of the three blood-borne diseases who had not been known to be positive prior to their potential exposure at Griffin would be provided with information about treatment options and offered the appropriate treatment (as determined by the patient and their physician) at the hospital’s expense,” the hospital stated.
Hospital officials later said five nurses had been linked to the misuse of the pens and would be “re-educated.”
But the lawsuit claims as many as 11 hospital employees were involved in using the same insulin pens on patients. It states in some cases employees improperly removed the patient identification labels affixed to the pens, then administered the same pen to other patients.
“We brought this case in order to hold Griffin Hospital accountable for the clearly systematic unsafe practices that occurred for a more than five-and-a-half-year period,” Teitell said.
Teitell would not comment on whether any of the more than 3,100 patients have come down with any diseases as a result of the multi-use of the pens.
The suit states in one case, Anthony Diaz, of Ansonia, who was admitted to the hospital in 2009, 2012 and February 2014 for a diabetic disorder, was each time injected insulin with a multi-dose pen.