A shocking incident came to light wherein a nurse from Oregon, US, allegedly replaced fentanyl intravenous drips (IV) with normal tap water, resulting in the deaths of at least 10 patients. The incident reportedly took place at the Asante Rouge Regional Medical Center in Medford, Oregon.
Hospital officials at the medical center reported to the police earlier last month that they suspected a former employee of stealing medications. Medford Police Lt. Geoff Kirkpatrick said that the hospital authorities are concerned that this incident may result in adverse patient care, though the extent of the impact of this grave incident is yet to be ascertained. He further added that they are investigating whether the deaths were due to medicine theft or tampering. The police department also received several calls from people enquiring whether they or their family members were affected by this incident.
The Oregon Health Authority stated that they are aware of the incident involving the nurse at Asante hospital, who is believed to have allegedly replaced fentanyl IV drips with tap water, resulting in healthcare-acquired infections that may cause the deaths of several patients.
Reports further state that the cover-up of the misuse of the hospital’s supply of fentanyl, a pain medication, affected patients over a period of 1 year, i.e., from fall 2022. A statement from Asante hospital authorities said that they informed the police department that they had identified and notified the affected patients and their families. They further added that they were distressed to learn about the incident. They reported to law enforcement and are working closely with them.
The police or the hospital could not provide any further information, and it’s still unclear if any arrests were made in this connection.
The theft of drugs from healthcare institutions is commonly known as diversion. However, the number of fatalities in a single cluster due to such incidents is not a common feature. A 2019 study in the Journal of Hospital Medicine inferred that drug losses from theft from hospitals are accelerating. Studies also concluded that patients are put at risk of infections from medical equipment left contaminated due to the theft of healthcare workers.
(Inputs from various sources)
(Rehash/Dr. Sushmita Ganguli)