A hospital in Kent launched a search for 17,000 former patients of a senior hospital physician who has been diagnosed as having the virus that causes AIDS.
Terence Shuttleworth, an obstetrician and gynecologist who treated about 17,000 women at hospitals in southeast England over his 10-year career, was diagnosed as HIV positive after becoming ill a few days ago.Medway Health Authority launched an intensive search on Sunday of its medical records after receiving information on Shut-tle-worth from the department of health Friday. It will now try to contact those at risk and offer them free AIDS tests. It has also set up 40 help lines offering advice and help.
The authority tried to reassure worried former patients, saying the chances that Shuttleworth passed on HIV to patients was "extremely remote."
"Our first assessment was that 17,000-17,500 patients may have had treatment with Mr. Shut-tle-worth," said Ken Hesketh, district general manager of Medway Health Authority.
"We are trying to work out exactly who from this list of 17,000 is at risk. There are many on the list who did not see Mr. Shuttleworth or had a normal delivery, so there was no risk at all," said Hesketh.
"We do not know how many are at risk, but we think possibly 6,000 people over the whole 10-year period could have had contact with Shuttleworth in a gynecological operation, a complicated birth, a Caesarean section or a birth that involved the use of instruments," he said.
Dr. Ann Palmer, the authority's director of public health, said the only risk to patients was if there was blood-to-blood contact as "when a doctor cuts himself during invasive surgery."
Hesketh said the health authority had set up help lines, advisers and counselors and free AIDS tests for any of the 17,000 patients who felt at risk.
Shuttleworth's case came several weeks after a case in which a midwife who delivered 42 babies over a 23-month period was diagnosed HIV positive. In May there was another alert when a junior doctor working as a trainee surgeon at the Royal Livingstone University Hospital discovered he was HIV positive after his baby son died of AIDS.