BUFFALO, N.Y. – A local veteran, who learned about unsanitary endoscopes not from his doctor, but from the news, on Thursday worried what he may have been exposed to.
Scott Frank was a military police officer who served in the Gulf War. He had a colonoscopy at the Buffalo VA Medical Center in June, and then learned that 526 patients may be affected on Wednesday.
"First thing that popped in my mind was I just had mine a month and a half ago, what do I do now?” he told Channel 2 in his backyard in Dunkirk.
Frank spent Thursday calling the VA for answers. His clinic told him they don't have a list of affected patients.
"It's very disturbing. Not just for myself, but for the other 500 veterans,” he said.
So how does this happen? Endoscope manufacturers and the FDA have strict guidelines on how these medical tools need to be cleaned.
UBMD’s chief gastroenterology expert Dr. Ramon Rivera says the cleaning protocols call for a two-part process, and the procedural breakdown likely happened due to human error.
"It's a combination of an automated process with manual cleaning or disinfection,” Dr. Rivera explained.
The VA’s public affairs office said Wednesday in a brief statement that the employee in charge of the endoscope cleaning procedures had been relieved of their duties.
Channel 2 wanted to know how and when patients were going to be notified, but the public affairs director did not return phone calls.
"These endoscopes are designed to go into patients’ bodies. They come into contact with mucus membranes, and there are a number of bacteria and viruses that the endoscope may be coming in contact with,” Dr. Rivera said.
While that may sound scary, he said the likelihood of infection is extremely low.
Still, Frank finds what happened disappointing.
"I think myself and all of my other brothers and sisters deserve clean instruments. I don't think that's a lot to ask,” he said.
Dr. Rivera reminds people that colonoscopies help prevent cancer or catch it early enough to treat, and he emphasized that this shouldn’t deter people from taking care of their health.