Vancouver hospital patients at risk of hepatitis C

VANCOUVER, Wash. - More than 900 former patients of a Vancouver hospital are advised to be tested for hepatitis C because they may have been exposed to the disease by a former employee suspect of diverting drugs for personal use.

Clark County Public Health and PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center mailed certified letters Monday to 936 former patients. The hospital is apologizing and offering to pay for the tests.

PeaceHealth began the investigation after it learned of the drug diversion and discovered one of the employee's patients was diagnosed with the blood-borne liver disease.

"We sincerely apologize for the anxiety this news will cause our patients and their families,” Sy Johnson, chief executive officer, PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center, said in a statement. “The risk of infection is low, but we are acting with great caution to ensure the well-being of our patients.”

Temporary patient service center have been set up in three locations. Patients can also be tested by their health care provider.

Those with questions should visit www.peacehealth.org/HepC or send an email to HepC@peacehealth.org. They can also call the patient care support line at 360-729-2000.