At least five patients were accidentally infected with HIV at a top-level traditional Chinese medicine hospital in Hangzhou, provincial health authorities confirmed on Thursday.
A technician is blamed with reusing a tube which had been previously used to treat an individual with HIV on other patients at the Zhejiang Provincial Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine, resulting in cross-infection.
The technician has been arrested and is under police investigation. Meanwhile, multiple members of the hospital’s staff have been fired, including its president and party secretary.
In a statement the provincial health and family planning commission said that it was alerted about the cases on January 26th. However, the commission failed to say when the incidents occurred, what was being treated, and how many more patients could be at risk of infection.
The shocking incident has done yet more to shake the Chinese public’s already unsteady trust in their healthcare system which has been plagued with charges of profiteering and employing experimental and ineffective medical procedures in recent years.
Most alarmingly, it also calls to mind how tens of thousands of Chinese residents were infected with HIV/AIDS through blood donations and transfusions in previous decades because of lax safety standards. From 1985 to 2005, around 30% of China’s HIV infections were caused by the country’s shady blood trade.
Since then, China has successfully cracked down on the illegal blood trade, and incidents like these are rare with sexual transmission now accounting for 94% of new HIV infections.
But mistakes are still being made. In a separate incident, nine patients at a hospital in Shandong province were also accidentally infected this week with hepatitis B after the hospital’s haemodialysis unit operated against regulations.
Follow Shanghaiist on WeChat