A report released Friday by Maryland health officials indicates that HIV and hepatitis C testing problems at Baltimore's Maryland General Hospital may be much worse than initially reported, with potentially thousands of possibly incorrect test results released by the hospital. The hospital originally estimated that about 460 people may have received incorrect HIV or hepatitis C test results during the past 14 months due to equipment malfunctions and decisions by laboratory staff to process questionable test results. But the new report suggests that nearly 2,200 patients could have received incorrect results on tests performed between June 2002 and August 2003.
The state report found that lab workers manipulated and eliminated machine readings showing that recently completed blood tests might be inaccurate and should be discarded. Hospital officials say the testing machine itself and not improper employee methodology could have produced the inaccurate results. The report indicates that 10% to 15% of the HIV antibody tests conducted during the 14-month window might have produced inaccurate results. The state has ordered the lab to correct the deficiencies it has identified and will assess a $10,000-per-day fine if improvements are not made immediately.