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Puyallup police investigating nurse in hepatitis C case. Hundreds of patients being tested

Puyallup police have launched an investigation into allegations a nurse at Good Samaritan Hospital, seen here, stole drugs and infected at least two patients with hepatitis C.
Puyallup police have launched an investigation into allegations a nurse at Good Samaritan Hospital, seen here, stole drugs and infected at least two patients with hepatitis C. jbessex@gateline.com

Puyallup police said Tuesday they were investigating a nurse accused of stealing drugs and infecting at least two patients at Good Samaritan Hospital with hepatitis C.

Meanwhile, hundreds of potentially affected patients were being tested. Leaders of the Multicare hospital said Monday that 2,600 patients who might have interacted with the former emergency room nurse should get tested.

Asked Tuesday how many patients the hospital had heard from since the announcement, and whether there were any new reports of infection, MultiCare spokeswoman Marce Edwards said via email: "We completed the lab draws for several hundred patients so far. The testing still is in process and we don’t have results to share yet."

The hospital mailed notifications to patients they recommend be tested, and said patients who don't get a letter this week are not at risk.

The Police Department said Monday it had been contacted by hospital leaders, but had not taken an official report about the allegations against the nurse, who has not been publicly identified. Spokesman Ryan Portmann said Tuesday the report had been taken and investigators were looking into it.

"Our detectives are coming up with a plan about how they're going to complete the investigation," he said.

It's not yet clear what charges that might lead to.

It's also not clear how the two patients who interacted with the nurse contracted the disease.

The nurse allegedly admitted she "diverted" injectable narcotics meant for patients, and hospital leaders said she was "surprised" when she tested positive for the disease herself.

Chris Bredeson, left, Good Samaritan Hospital president and COO, and Dr. David Bachman, chief medical officer for the Puyallup hospital, address concerns over a former nurse who tested positive for hepatitis C and possibly infected two patients.

Shared needles typically are responsible for spreading hepatitis C. The disease is curable, and patients who test positive for it and were infected in the Good Samaritan emergency room will get free treatment.

The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department found the possible link with the hospital, spokeswoman Edie Jeffers said.

Health care providers report all cases of hepatitis C to the local health department, which investigates how the disease was transmitted.

Investigators noted that the two Good Samaritan patients, who got the disease in December, "did not have the typical risk factor of injection IV drug use," and ultimately suspected a link with the hospital, Jeffers said.

Then the agency worked with the state Department of Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to figure out who needed to be notified.

The nurse, who worked at the hospital from Aug. 4 to March 23, is being investigated by the state Health Department's Nursing Commission. Her license has not been suspended, but she resigned from Good Samaritan and told a state investigator she is not practicing elsewhere.

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