To celebrate the New Year, the recently released movie Puncture has now come out in DVD. The movie, which stars Chris Evans, was theatrically released in early fall and has then followed with video release. The movie is a must for every RN and every health care worker and should be required viewing for hospital administrators, health policy experts, and politicians. It raises sobering issues about the safety of health care workers, who like the real life character in this movie, have been hurt on the job and as a result become patients — like those they have devoted their lives to help.
The movie is about a nurse who is stuck with a needle at work and contracts HIV and eventually dies of AIDS. Evans plays one of the real life lawyers — Mike Weiss, who along with attorney Paul Danziger, was contacted by the nurse as she was sick and dying. She had a friend who had designed a safe needle that no hospital would purchase. The needle is a retractable one that makes it almost impossible for a nurse or anyone else to get a needlestick injury. The two lawyers represented the inventor of this safe,retractable needle and discover that what would seem so obvious as to need no discussion (that hospitals would rush to purchase the safest possible needle available) is absolutely out of bounds. Hospitals won’t even meet with the inventor, because large Group Purchasing Organizations (GPOs), are middle men between anyone selling anything to a hospital and the people in the hospital who purchase everything from needles to bedsheets. These GPOs have enormous clout and companies spend millions to influence what they in turn offer to hospitals and other healthcare facilities.
As the story unfolds, Weiss and Danziger (Evans and Mark Kassen) go through the looking glass and enter the bizarre world of kickbacks and corporate influence. As they pursue their case, they encounter big money lawyers who represent the GPOs and a huge corporation that makes unsafe needles and that is willing to pay anything to destory any competition whatsoever in our so-called free market system. The movie focuses around this struggle and also on the sad fate of Mike Weiss, who was a brilliant but troubled individual – a drug user who eventually died of an overdose and was unable to complete work on the case.
The movie is a gripping reminder that in spite of some legislative victories many hospitals today still use unsafe needles. Which is why there are 800,000 needlestick injuries in the US every year. Yes, every year, nurses, doctors, aides, housekeepers and more are threatened by injuries that could be prevented immediately if hospitals used the kind of safe needles you’ll see on display in this movie. That means thousands of health care workers are at risk for contracting HIV, hepatitis and other blood borne infections. These workers then become patients and face immense suffering and even death. Plus, caring for them adds millions to health care costs.
If you go to the Puncture website, you’ll a great deal about needlestick injuries as well as the scourge of these GPOs, which are purchasing cartels that negotiate over $100 billion in contracts each year and are actually allowed, by law, to give kickbacks to hospitals who purchase from them. You can also check out a book by Sethi S. Prakash entitled Group Purchasing Organizations: An Undisclosed Scandal in the U.S. Healthcare Industry. Which is why Congress needs to act to make what is now legal illegal.
Anyone who is a nurse or nursing student — or the parent of a nurse or nursing student — should become involved in this issue. Be aware, your son or daughter could be at great risk for a needlestick injury because the same kind of corporate greed that has jeopardized our economy continues to jeopardize the health of almost every healthcare worker in America.