Mon, Jan 10, 2011 - Page 2 News List

Healthcare workers call for use of safety needles

Staff Writer, with CNA

Healthcare workers from several hospitals have called for legislation to mandate the use of safety needles to reduce the incidence of accidental needle prick injuries.

The reported number of injuries from accidental needle pricks in Taiwan is 8,000 per year, healthcare workers and professionals said, urging the government to address this occupational hazard.

At present, the use of safety needles is subsidized by the Bureau of National Health Insurance only under special circumstances and in emergency rooms. Safety needles are usually not used in hospitals for general medical procedures.

The Taiwan AIDS Foundation, which organized the awareness campaign, said there were more than 30 kinds of blood-borne diseases, including hepatitis B, HIV and syphilis, which could be transmitted through needle prick injuries in non-emergency settings.

However, even though the use of safety needle sets can effectively prevent healthcare professionals from acquiring blood-transmitted diseases, these needles are not often used in Taiwan, the foundation said.

“If we look at the statistics for January to November 2010, the use of safety needle sets was only 2.07 percent of the total,” foundation secretary-general Hung Lin Chiung-chao (洪林瓊照) said.

Asked why the government and hospitals have been reluctant to fully adopt the use of safety needles, Hung said he suspected cost was the major reason.

The costs of a normal needle set is about NT$2 as compared with NT$27 or more for a safety set, he said.

However, the cost of tests and treatment for people with needle prick injuries would probably exceed that of buying safety needles, he said, adding that the government should spend money on prevention rather than cure.

The foundation said that although medical professionals are working closely with several legislators to push for laws on the use of safety needles throughout the healthcare system, the allocation of funds to cover the cost is likely to be a big impediment.

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