PUYALLUP, WA (KIRO/CNN) – Officials at a Washington hospital believe a former nurse may have infected at least two patients with hepatitis C after she allegedly used needles on them that she also used to inject herself with narcotics.
An investigation showed the emergency room nurse, who has not been named, was removing “higher-than-normal amounts of narcotics” from the dispensing system at MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup, WA.
Officials say the nurse stole injectable narcotics, intended for patients, for her personal use.
They believe she may have injected those drugs then used the same needles on patients, possibly infecting them with hepatitis C, an infection of the liver.
The nurse tested positive for hepatitis C and treated two patients in December who contracted the disease and had not been at risk for it. The disease is usually transmitted through exposure to an infected person’s blood through shared needles.
"This event should not have happened in any of our facilities,” said Chris Bredeson, the hospital’s chief operating officer.
Bredeson says the woman worked in the medical center’s ER from August 4, 2017, to March 23, 2018.
Hospital officials are trying to contact 2,600 patients who received injections in the ER during that eight-month period, so they can be tested for hepatitis C as well.
Dr. David Bachman, the hospital’s chief medical officer, says the odds of finding a large number of people infected by the same woman are likely to be low.
"We want to identify patients who may have acquired hepatitis C. Again, I hope that number is a very small number,” Bachman said.
The hospital is offering free treatment to any patients who contracted the disease while in the ER.
Officials say they have changed the reporting of narcotic use to ensure this doesn’t happen again, saying it will “help identify employees who deviate from standard practices for medication use.”
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