Health officials said 936 people may have been exposed to hepatitis C because of the actions of a former PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center employee who is suspected of diverting drugs for personal use.
All 936 people are urged to receive hepatitis C testing at the expense of PeaceHealth Southwest.
Sy Johnson, the CEO of PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center, said the risk of infection is low, but "we are acting with great caution to ensure the well-being of our patients."
"We sincerely apologize for the anxiety this news will cause our patients and their families," he said.
Letters were sent out Monday to the 936 patients, and three temporary patient service centers have been set up to allow for the testing.
Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease. It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness that attacks the liver and can cause liver cancer.
It is spread when blood from a person infected with hepatitis C enters the body of someone who is not infected. Most people become infected by sharing needles, but it can also be spread by sharing personal care items like razors or toothbrushes, or having sexual contact with a person infected with hepatitis C.
PeaceHealth's three patient service centers are located at the following locations. Anyone who received the hepatitis C letter can go to these locations between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. from May 20 to June 7:
The employee tied to the case worked at the hospital from mid-2012 until March of this year.
Administrators said the former employee, who did have access to patients, is now under investigation for possibly stealing drugs that were supposed to be used for patients.
That person was not identified.
At a press conference earlier this month, hospital administrators said a patient at the hospital in August 2012 was later diagnosed with hepatitis C, but it wasn't clear how the person contracted the virus.
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