A Message to AHA Members:

We want to give you advance notice that Dateline NBC is scheduled to air a story tonight about the use of safety needles in hospitals and health systems. At the heart of the matter is whether hospitals should be required to provide new types of needles, syringes or "sharps" that could help reduce injuries and the risks of contracting such diseases as HIV or hepatitis. The piece will likely focus on a health care worker who has been infected on the job.

We want to alert you in case your local media decides to follow up. Local media may also pursue stories on this subject as a result of issues now before legislative and regulatory bodies.

  • The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently asked hospitals to share information about their experiences with safety needles and sharps, and the AHA encouraged hospitals to respond. (See Dec. 8 AHA Quality Advisory.)
  • Legislation had been introduced at the national level, and federal agencies are studying the issue.
  • Bills to mandate the use of safety needles have been introduced in several states including Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, Tennessee and Washington. A new California law will require facilities to use safety needles by August 1.

A set of talking points to help you address questions about protecting workers from sharps injuries is attached.

Dateline NBC
Dateline, the popular and prolific NBC newsmagazine program, has been working on a segment on needle safety in hospitals since last fall. AHA Chief Operating Officer and quality expert Jonathan T. Lord, M.D. was interviewed by Dateline about the issue in November. His message: Hospitals and health systems are committed to the safety of their patients and workers, and are working to ensure that medical instruments and equipment are good for patients and protect workers.

Other Television Interest
Last month, Lord was also interviewed on sharps safety by Sweepsfeed, a new television syndication company that produces stories for its client stations across the country. It is our understanding that stations may likely run the completed piece in May.

How You Can Prepare
While we are uncertain of the exact direction these stories will take, you should be prepared to describe and discuss:

  • your hospital's policies and procedures, particularly related to patient and worker safety;
  • whether your hospital has conducted an assessment of accidental needlesticks and other sharp injuries and evaluation of alternative products;
  • what equipment options your facility offers to workers; and
  • how you train your staff in the use of needles, syringes and other sharps.

For additional background, check out the "Sharps Safety" section of the AHA Web site (www.aha.org). Also, later this month, you'll receive a copy of a new sharps injury prevention guide that AHA is publishing to help hospitals establish strong prevention programs.

For media relations questions, please call Alicia Mitchell at (202) 626-2339.


  • Caring for patients in the most appropriate way is our mission.

    Hospitals and health systems are committed to the safety and comfort of our patients. When it comes to needles, syringes and other sharps, hospitals must meet the specific needs of their patients. For example, a physician or nurse will use a different type of needle for a child than they would for an adult patient. OSHA has recognized that there is no "one size fits all" solution to sharps injury prevention.

  • Employee safety is a critical issue to us.

    Hospitals have a strong record of promoting worker safety.

    For example, because of hospital education efforts and a hepatitis B vaccine, our health care workers are less at risk for the disease than the general public. In fact, the number of health care workers infected with hepatitis B dropped from a high of 17,000 in 1983 to 400 today.

    To help reduce injuries for patients and workers, hospitals have worked to educate workers about safe use and disposal of needles, syringes and other sharps. For example, hospitals have added special containers to every patient's room to dispose of used needles.

  • Hospitals carefully evaluate the effectiveness of their equipment - both for the safety of patients and protection of workers.

    OSHA requires hospitals to review on an ongoing basis the feasibility of adopting more advanced technologies and equipment, and hospitals must make those decisions based on the best interest of the patient and the worker. [Note: Be prepared to discuss what your facility has done to implement this requirement.]


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