Elton's safe-needle bill passes

Posted: Friday, April 21, 2000

The Legislature has passed a bill by Sen. Kim Elton intended to save hospitals money and make the jobs of medical professionals safer.

Senate Bill 261 passed the Senate last week by a 19-1 vote, and the House on Wednesday on a 30-2 vote. Bob King, spokesman for Gov. Tony Knowles, said it wasn't at risk of a veto.

It would be the first bill sponsored by Elton, a Juneau Democrat, to become law during his first two-year session in the Senate.

Elton said the bill provides that health facilities in Alaska use what are called safe needles, which offer more protection than the familiar hypodermic needles. The measure also mandates that hospitals keep a log of accidental needle sticks.

In California, where safe-needle legislation was born, more than $100 million has been saved, Elton said. Though safe needles cost a few cents more to buy, they cut down on hospital personnel accidentally sticking themselves with needles. Tests for blood-borne diseases that follow such accidents can run as high as $3,000, he said.

Though Elton was pleased to see one of his bills make it through the legislative process, he was disappointed that other measures, such as a proposal to strengthen the state's drunken driving law, have been stalled at the Capitol.

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