Salem Hospital May Have Subjected Patients to HIV and Hepatitis, Claims New Class Action Lawsuit
Massachusetts Salem Hospital is facing a class action lawsuit after some patients say they were possibly exposed to HIV and hepatitis while visiting the hospital for routine care.
The exposure was first reported by the Boston Globe, where the hospital says an estimated 450 people may have been exposed to the infectious diseases over a two-year period.
The discovery came earlier this year when the hospital said it learned about endoscopy patients receiving intravenous medication "in a manner not consistent with our best practice." The complaint asserts that because the hospital did not adhere to best practices when administering the intravenous medication, patients were subjected to these life-threatening infections.
After discovering the possible exposure, the hospital says it contacted all the patients who may have been affected. In an effort to mitigate exposure, the hospital provided free screening for Hepatitis B, C, and HIV for victims who may have been exposed.
The lawsuit was filed late last week in Suffolk Superior Court and names 12 defendants including Salem Hospital along with its parent company, Mass General Brigham. Both defendants are being accused of negligence.
The lawsuit names Melinda Cashman from Amesbury as the lead plaintiff. The lawsuit details that between June 14, 2021, and April 19, 2023, she had an endoscopic procedure at the hospital. After the hospital announced the potential exposure, Cashman had to undergo exhaustive testing protocols and testing to identify whether she had been exposed. As a result, Cashman suffered “severe emotional distress and mental anguish.”
Under Massachusetts law, a defendant can be found liable for negligence if they owe a plaintiff a degree of care and fail to use that degree of care which a reasonably prudent person would use under the same circumstances.
The lawsuit maintains that the injuries the plaintiffs sustained ”are the direct and proximate result of the negligence” of the hospital. The lawsuit accuses the hospital of failing to take “necessary and appropriate measures under the standards of care applicable to medical facilities” to protect patients from exposure to these life-threatening infections.
In addition to allegations of negligent policies and procedures that violated the standard of care, the hospital is said to have been negligent in its hiring, training, supervision, and oversight of individuals who administered the intravenous medication. The defendants also failed to recognize that such actions would likely cause patients to suffer emotional distress.
The hospital has acknowledged that a lack of best practices may have caused patients to become exposed to infectious diseases, and it is attempting to mitigate the damage and has since apologized to patients. The hospital maintains that exposure and actual infection remains minimal.
The lawsuit is seeking a trial by jury along with unspecified damages.