Petrina Kuzyk wants changes made at a Saskatchewan hospital after she says her toddler put her tiny hands into a garbage pail and got stuck with a dirty needle.
Kuzyk said 19-month-old Janaeya squealed in delight when she discovered the yellow hazardous-waste bucket in the emergency room at the hospital in Outlook, south of Saskatoon, last Friday.
Kuzyk was busy talking with a nurse, who was examining one of her older children. When the toddler shrieked, they all looked down and noticed Janaeya had reached in the pail, which was sitting on the bottom of a cart near the bed.
The child pulled out her hands and was clutching a dirty needle.
"I grabbed it and threw it in the pail, and immediately took her to the sink and was washing her hands,'' said Kuzyk.
There were small nicks on both of the girl's palms, as well as a scratch and what appeared to be a small puncture mark on her right wrist, she said.
Kuzyk, a former special care aide, said the nurse couldn't explain why the needles were in the garbage.
"She kept saying how much it was bothering her and she didn't understand and didn't know why that pail was there.''
The family spent the rest of the day at a hospital in Saskatoon, where Janaeya got the first of several Hepatitis B shots and started a month-long course of drugs to prevent infections, such as HIV.
For the next six months, the tot will have to undergo regular blood tests to determine if she has caught anything.
"I think the chances are slim,'' Kuzyk said. "But until I have that confirmation that she doesn't have anything, then I'm very worried. Because there's always that chance.''
She said the drugs are so far making her daughter sick with diarrhea and the girl doesn't seem to want to eat.
"It's just something that could have been prevented,'' said Kuzyk, noting she saw a special receptacle for used needles on a wall across the hospital room.
"My daughter shouldn't have to suffer, even for a month, because of somebody else's ignorance and laziness, as far as I'm concerned.''
Saskatchewan's health minister told The Canadian Press that an alert is going out to all health regions in the province to make sure they're following the proper rules for the safe handling of bio-hazard material.
"They'll report back in 30 days from that to ensure that we have proper protocols in place in all health facilities,'' said Dustin Duncan.
He added that the Heartland Health Region is also conducting an investigation into what happened.
The region's CEO, Gregory Cummings, said he couldn't comment on the specifics of the case because of privacy concerns.
In general, he said used needles are to be put in mailbox-like wall receptacles with special lids that people can't put their whole hands into.
Cummings said most hospital rooms have yellow garbage pails for other bio hazardous waste.
"It should be on the floor. It just shouldn't contain sharps, but it might contain used dressings, diapers, things like that, that are known to be infectious.''
The health region's facilities went through national accreditation procedures in June, he said. They also undergo monthly inspections by the province.
Kuzyk said an official with the health region phoned to apologize last weekend. But the family has met with a lawyer and is considering a lawsuit.
She said she wants to make sure this doesn't happen again to another child.
"I'm upset it happened. I'm sure they are too. And my husband and I both feel somebody needs to be held accountable and those pails should just never, ever be used for sharps, ever again.''