HENAN - Preliminary investigations indicate that substandard practices at a county hospital's blood clinic have caused several patients to contract hepatitis C, authorities said on Monday.
Inspectors were sent to Xin'an Hospital in Henan province shortly after media reports exposed the spate of infections.
A preliminary report by the team, which consists of provincial health officials and their colleagues from Luoyang city, said the hospital's medics had "violated operation regulations".
At least six people contracted hep C during dialysis treatments.
Eight others tested positive for having the antibodies they would produce if they were infected, although they must undergo further examinations before medical workers can confirm that they have the disease, the report added.
"Screening for contagious diseases should be carried out before any dialysis treatment," said Zhou Yong, spokesman of the Henan Health Department.
"Special treatment should be given to patients with these diseases and they should be treated separately."
He refused to give more details about the case, adding that a final report is yet to be released.
Lu Song, 61, who has uremia - an illness resulting from kidney failure - and diabetes, began receiving dialysis at Xin'an Hospital in 2008.
He said he was told he didn't have hep C before he received his first treatment.
Yet, when he and two fellow patients were transferred to different hospitals in Luoyang, all three tested positive for the disease in pre-dialysis checks.
After making inquiries among other patients, they discovered they were not alone.
Lu and his fellow victims will receive free treatments and compensation, according to a statement the provincial health bureau made on Saturday.
The director and deputy director of the hospital have been suspended, while other medical workers in the scandal have been punished, authorities said.
They said professionals from Luoyang hospitals have been sent to take over the dialysis treatments given at Xin'an.
The temporary management team had to make a lot of improvements to the operation of the hospital, which contains no rooms set aside for treating waste, Xinhua News Agency reported.
Meanwhile, the provincial health bureau announced on Sunday that it will inspect all medical organizations that are authorized to carry out blood dialysis. The inspections will last until the end of the month.