Health authorities reject syringe reuse allegations

The China Post news staff

TAIPEI, Taiwan — The Bureau of National Health Insurance (BNHI, 健保局) yesterday said reports of patients being forced to reuse disposable syringes for injecting insulin are isolated cases, while the medical profession community indicated that it is an understandable measure in certain critical situtations.

Following media reports and debate in the medical professional community, the issue of patients being forced to reuse disposable syringes for insulin injection has recently come under public scrutiny.

According to reports, an unnamed doctor has on numerous occasions provided testimony that several clinics and hospitals were denied government compensation for syringes provided to patients.

The doctor alleged that the compensation was denied as the BNHI ruled that an excess of syringes had been prescribed. The BNHI went so far as to advise doctors to instruct patients to reuse syringes, according to the unnamed doctor’s testimony.

Conventionally, doctors assign a syringe per injection, in addition to a number of spares in case of breakage.

“Our guidelines specify that a single syringe is provided for each injection … The reported case is an outlying anomaly,” said the BNHI, adding that they only advise patients to reuse syringes when numbers are running low due to breakage.

“Any shortfall in the amount of syringes provided is not intended”, said the BNHI.

Disposable syringes designed for insulin injections are equipped with a shorter and finer needle to reduce pain during administration, and should not be reused, as the chance of dulling or breaking the needle increases with each repeated injection, which may lead to infections, lacerations or lipodystrophy symptoms, according to medical professionals.

However, the risk in reusing a syringe represents a far better option than facing the risks of a missed insulin injection, said the Taiwanese Association of Diabetes Educators (中華民國糖尿病衛教學會).