Hospital Says Employee May Have Spread Hepatitis C By Getting High & Injecting Patients With Used Syringe

Health officials in New Hampshire are trying to track down what could have caused an outbreak of hepatitis C at one particular hospital. One scary possibility? An employee abused drugs and then used that used syringe to inject patients. Shudder.

The state’s public health director says an investigation into the outbreak is still inconclusive after three weeks, but that the employee scenario is being explored as a possibility. In the last decade, that’s been the case at three medical facilities in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There are currently 14 cases in the hospital’s outbreak, reports the Bangor Daily News, all linked by the hospital’s cardiac catheterization laboratory and recovery area.

Officials are stressing that there are three different areas investigators are looking at, and the possibility of the employee and the contaminated syringe is just one of those three thus far.

“The three things are still on the table, and we’re still actively looking into those three things,” said Dr. Jose Montero, the state public health director.

When asked if there’s evidence pointing to the employee being a factor, he replied, “I’m not saying ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’ I’m telling you I don’t feel that it is appropriate for me to disclose any of the findings until I know more about them.”

All 879 patients who were treated at the lab since April 2011 have been contacted by the hospital and asked to get tested for hepatitis C. The earliest known case is September 2011.

*Thanks for the tip, Christine!

NH explores drug use by hospital employee in major hepatitis C outbreak [Bangor Daily News]

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  1. cosmic.charlie says:

    W-T-F?!

  2. crispyduck13 says:

    Well hey there New Hampshire! Welcome to the Crazy State Club! This is only a trial membership, for permanant status we’ll need to see at least one fucked up story in the headlines from you guys each month. We have a great seat for you over there right next to Florida, and today’s your lucky day – Texas brought cookies!**

    **All that depends on this actually being the result of some insane person spreading their Hep C in a goddamn hospital of all places. Jesus Tapdancing Christ.

    • temporaryerror says:

      I was watching one of those “Busted on the Job” shows, and they had a security cam clip of the Dr. in the surgery room inject half of a syringe into himself, then the other half into the patient.

    • Dave B. says:

      Hey, I’m from NH!

      Oh, and BTW, I really enjoyed your post, thanks for the laugh :)

    • jenniferrose76 says:

      It’s a nationwide epidemic-like the zombie apocalypse, but dumber.

  3. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    “One of the most common causes of patient-to-patient transmission was using syringes or insulin pens on multiple patients. Another common error was using the same syringe to draw medicine from a container multiple times.”

    OMG – what is this, an old Soviet block hospital? I say shut the place down and send everyone back to school to learn safe medical practices. I am just a normal person, who gives her cat insulin shots, and I would never, ever, ever use that same syringe on one of my other pets (if they had diabetes too).

    The article says someone is facing a maximum life in prison sentence – totally warranted.

    • Starrion says:

      Knowing someone that works at the hospital-

      In a completely hypothetical world… You can have all the policies that you want, if an employee isn’t following policy you may not be able to detect it easily.

      • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

        My Mom is a retired RN – she would freak out if she saw this article. Even at home, when taking care of a minor wound, she uses gloves, antiseptic stuff, antibacterial handsoap before and after…I can’t even imagine what she would think if a syringe was used twice.

        • who? says:

          Totally. My wife is an RN. We don’t even use the same needle twice for our cat. Besides the ick factor, the needles get dull after they’ve been used a time or two.

  4. Blueskylaw says:

    “Officials are stressing that there are three different areas investigators are looking at”

    And yet sensationalism requires news outlets to only
    focus on the one that gets the most people riled up.

  5. dulcinea47 says:

    OMG, WHY?? You’re in a hospital, I bet there are an abundance of syringes around. They’re not expensive.

    • Jane_Gage says:

      “Because they’re all inventoried, and you can’t really expect me to shoot H into my eyeball *after* I use the needle on a patient, I may catch something!” -Nurse Junkie

    • crispyduck13 says:

      I’m guessing they track their quantities somehow.

    • Mojimo says:

      Indeed, I don’t know why anyone would do this. Syringes are not tracked at our hospital in any way that would allow someone to be caught. Of course they are very inexpensive as well and can be purchased easily online or elsewhere.

      That being said, because drug addict.

  6. Warren - aka The Piddler on the Roof says:

    People like this are the reason we desperately need one of those giant sand vaginas like they had in ‘Return of the Jedi’.

    • ferozadh says:

      So does the Sarlacc extend a person’s life by a thousand years? Otherwise the pain and suffering would last as long as it takes for the person to die from thirst/starvation. Still painful but nowhere near a thousand years of pain.

  7. 8bithero says:

    This, ladies and gentlemen, is the very definition of “shitstorm”.

  8. DraconWolfX says:

    I just saw an advertisement from a lawyer on TV about this last night, already trying to cash in. “Were you recently treated at the hospital and contacted by the hospital to take a hepatitis test or recently diagnosed with Hep C after visiting the hospital? Don’t contact the hospital without a lawyer. Contact us first”

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      That actually sounds like pretty good advice.

      Being contacted by a hospital about something like that is awful. About 10 years ago, I was contacted six months after getting a colonoscopy at the VA about potential exposure to HIV. Thankfully, it didn’t happen but I had horrible nightmares for weeks after finding out.

    • RvLeshrac says:

      This is the most basic example of why we need to allow patients to sue the holy fuck out of hospitals. With modern regulation, I find it impossible to believe that *no one* knew about any of this.

      Should it pan out, of course, and not be something unrelated.

    • Jane_Gage says:

      My first phone call is to get tested to see if my liver’s going to slip out my asshole, call me crazy.

  9. Anachronism says:

    This exact thing happened in Colorado a few years ago, only in Colorado it was proven to have happened.

    http://www.talkleft.com/story/2009/7/3/202317/7243

  10. u1itn0w2day says:

    I’ve always been amazed at the number of so called medical professionals that either hate their job AND/OR have distain for their patients. But I guess it’s just a job that sucks to them and they take it out on the customers/patients like any other disgruntled company employee.

    • jesusofcool says:

      I agree. In this case, I think it’s a product of the compensation system. For the relatively limited minimum schooling (2-4 years) it takes to become a nurse or medical technician, they are paid very very well in addition to excellent benefits and often the option for flexible hours. Being from the area, I can tell you that in a place like NH, a 60-80k potential salary plus top benefits for 2-4 years of education, which can be acquired inexpensively through your local community college, looks better than almost any other job available. As a result, you get a lot of fairly dopey people and people with little interest in helping others applying for these jobs.

    • Mojimo says:

      I used to think that nurses were compensated very well for what appeared to be a very easy job. I had to make a career change a few years back and thought “why not nursing?” I haven’t had every job, but I have a few. What I feel now is that nursing is one of the more difficult, stressful, physically and emotionally draining jobs out there. You are responsible for not only your own actions, but monitoring what the other nurses, doctors, pharmacy, and patients are doing. If someone who has had 3-4 times the schooling I’ve had makes a mistake and orders an inappropriate drug or dose and I don’t catch it my license and much more are on the line, not to mention the personal toll that causing harm to someone would take. Throw in the unreasonable patients, the unreasonable families and chaos that I’ve not seen in many other jobs and you have a very difficult profession.

      I think you are right in regards to the idea that it is just a job to some people, and I don’t have any issue with that. However, even though it is just a job to some of them that doesn’t mean that they don’t do their best. Being in the health care profession doesn’t carry the requirement that you have a heart of gold.

  11. who? says:

    My wife is an RN.

    She watched a nurse go to prison for stealing drugs out of patients’ pain pumps.

    She had a patient nearly die because a tech for the pain pump manufacturer was stealing the drugs out of the pain pump and replacing it with saline. They didn’t know this was happening, and kept increasing the dosage on the pump. When the tech got caught and the patient’s meds weren’t watered down anymore, he OD’d.

    Then the guy from shipping and receiving was caught stealing the brand new $5000 pain pumps as they came into receiving, and sending them to a guy in another state who was reselling them.

    Another nurse, who was doing home care, was stealing pain pills from the patients’ medicine cabinets.

    It’s absolutely *stunning* what drug addicted medical people will do.

    • u1itn0w2day says:

      You figure they would know better being exposed to the medical consequences of drug abuse. I still think there are too many people in the medical profession wether it be clerical or doctor that are there for a job. And the reason it’s just another job is that medical care is treated like a business. They need to be reminded of things like do no harm and they are there to help heal. Certain jobs simply require truely consciencitous employees.

    • frodolives35 says:

      My sister worked as a receptionist at a dr office that did colonoscopies. They arrested a nurse right in the office for stealing the meds of the old folks undergoing the procedures. My ex is also a lpn/paramedic a women I worked with told me 1/2 a bottle of her sons hydrocodone disappeared on an ambulance ride to the hospital that my ex was working. I told her to report her. Knowing the problems we went through with her liking pain meds a little to much I fully believe she stole those pills. Nothing ever came of the complaint but she did get fired a few months later for dropping 1 end of a gurney causing a stabilized patient to go back into arrest and die. She probably would have got away with that also except he was a local chief of police.

  12. NHpurple says:

    Next we will have to ask if the hospital performs random drug testing on employees when we choose who will provide our healthcare. Go ahead and ask anyone you know who works in a hospital whether they have been drug tested. Bet they haven’t.

    • AndroidHumanoid says:

      I have. Ive been drug tested for every single hospital Ive worked for, and one of them several times randomly in one year.

    • Mojimo says:

      I had a drug test upon application for employment as an RN where I work. I have had random and scheduled drug testing. This has included both UA and hair testing (the hair testing reveals data over a much longer period.) Most of the people I know who work for hospitals have drug testing but those who work in clinics and for doctors do not.

  13. smo0 says:

    That is fucking scary.

  14. Tangurena says:

    3 years ago, we had a case exactly like this here in Denver.

    >Questioned by state health officials and Denver police, Parker admitted stealing fentanyl, a potent painkiller used in many surgical procedures. She’d swipe the syringe right off the cart in the operating room when the anesthesiologist’s back was turned, she said, substituting a syringe filled with saline. Often the needle she put out for the patient was one she’d already used on herself. Parker had been suspended in April after being caught in an operating room where she didn’t belong, then fired when she tested positive for fentanyl.
    http://www.westword.com/2009-09-17/news/how-one-dope-fiend-evaded-the-system-at-rose-medical-center-and-dozens-of-patients-wound-up-with-hepatitis-c-in-their-systems/

    >Officials say up to 6,000 patients at the two Colorado hospitals may have been exposed to the disease. Thousands of former patients have been tested, with 1,818 negative results from Rose and 894 from Audubon, Colorado health officials said Friday. Parker worked at Rose from Oct. 21 to April 13 and at Audubon from May 4 until June 29.

    >An additional 2,800 patients may have been exposed at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, N.Y., where Parker worked between October 2007 and February 2008. The hospital sent letters to patients advising them to get tested.
    http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2009/07/hepatitis_c_case_linked_to_syr.html

    To help reduce their legal liability, the CO hospitals were forcing everyone who came down with Hep C to get their strain of Hep C DNA tested to make sure it was from Parker and not some other hepatitis C that they got from some other place.

    Westword is the weekly “alternative” press in Denver. Syracuse.com is run by one of the Syracuse, NY newspapers where Parker worked as a nurse before she moved to Denver.

    Kirsten Parker was sentenced to 30 years in prison in February, 2010.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/25/us/25hepatitis.html

  15. Tangurena says:

    3 years ago, we had a case exactly like this here in Denver.

    >Questioned by state health officials and Denver police, Parker admitted stealing fentanyl, a potent painkiller used in many surgical procedures. She’d swipe the syringe right off the cart in the operating room when the anesthesiologist’s back was turned, she said, substituting a syringe filled with saline. Often the needle she put out for the patient was one she’d already used on herself. Parker had been suspended in April after being caught in an operating room where she didn’t belong, then fired when she tested positive for fentanyl.
    http://www.westword.com/2009-09-17/news/how-one-dope-fiend-evaded-the-system-at-rose-medical-center-and-dozens-of-patients-wound-up-with-hepatitis-c-in-their-systems/

    >Officials say up to 6,000 patients at the two Colorado hospitals may have been exposed to the disease. Thousands of former patients have been tested, with 1,818 negative results from Rose and 894 from Audubon, Colorado health officials said Friday. Parker worked at Rose from Oct. 21 to April 13 and at Audubon from May 4 until June 29.

    >An additional 2,800 patients may have been exposed at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, N.Y., where Parker worked between October 2007 and February 2008. The hospital sent letters to patients advising them to get tested.
    http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2009/07/hepatitis_c_case_linked_to_syr.html

    To help reduce their legal liability, the CO hospitals were forcing everyone who came down with Hep C to get their strain of Hep C DNA tested to make sure it was from Parker and not some other hepatitis C that they got from some other place.

    Westword is the weekly “alternative” press in Denver. Syracuse.com is run by one of the Syracuse, NY newspapers where Parker worked as a nurse before she moved to Denver.

    Kirsten Parker was sentenced to 30 years in prison in February, 2010.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/25/us/25hepatitis.html