LONGVIEW — PeaceHealth St. John Medical Center announced in an April 5 press release that 260 former patients may have been exposed to hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV.

While conducting an internal review of infection control practices, St. John staff discovered that equipment was not properly sterilized in a facility that fitted patients for dental appliances for sleep apnea. The potential exposures occurred between Nov. 18, 2013 and Feb. 26, 2016, according to the press release.

PeaceHealth sent notification letters by certified mail to all potentially affected patients. In the letter, the hospital offered to test anyone who may have been exposed for HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. So far, no one has tested positive.

“I apologize for the concern this might cause our patients, their families and our community,” St. John Chief Administrative Officer Kirk Raboin said in the press release. “We take this very seriously. If you’ve received a letter from us, we are offering testing as a precaution, at no charge to you.”

Raboin said “The likelihood of infection is extremely low.” According to a document on the PeaceHealth website, equipment used in the fitting process was soaked in an antimicrobial agent, then sterilized with steam, “But additional cleaning steps might not have been followed correctly.”

Until early 2016, Ocean Beach Hospital operated under a management agreement with PeaceHealth, and many local patients go to Longview for healthcare services that are not available locally. However, it is not clear yet whether any local patients may have been affected. The Chinook Observer has made inquiries with OBH, a PeaceHealth spokesperson and the Washington State Department of Health. The story will be updated as additional details emerge.

Testing will take place at the St. John Occupational Health facility, at 1405 Delaware St., in Longview. PeaceHealth will pay for the testing if patients choose to be tested through another provider or lab.

For more information, visit www.peacehealth.org/testing or call 844-804-7904.

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