HIV-Positive Nurse Sparks Concern

  1. From the Associated Press:

    By T.A. BADGER, Associated Press Writer

    SAN ANTONIO (AP) - A hospital is urging hundreds of patients to get a blood test because of concerns an HIV (news - web sites)-positive nurse may have contaminated drug vials.

    Officials at South Texas Regional Medical Center said the nurse admitted taking drugs from the hospital's dispensary, and may have hid the thefts by refilling vials with saline using the same syringe she used to inject herself.

    Allan Smith, chief executive of the hospital in Jourdanton, about 25 miles south of San Antonio, said the nurse was fired Jan. 4, the day she admitted taking the drugs and revealed her HIV status.

    Smith said fewer than 200 patients were treated in the intensive care and surgical units while the woman worked there, from June to January. However, he said, the hospital sent letters to all 1,100 patients who received the drug Demerol during that time to ask them to get their blood tested.

    "We feel we've done the right thing to ensure the safety of the public," he said Wednesday.

    The nurse has said she didn't use the same syringe, hospital officials said. But Smith said the hospital fears the nurse refilled single-dose vials of Demoral with saline, using a syringe containing a small amount of her blood. Those vials may have been given to patients.

    Demerol, a brand name for the narcotic meperidine, is a potent and widely prescribed painkiller that can be addictive.

    Dr. F. Blaine Hollinger, a professor of virology at Baylor College of Medicine, said the odds of developing HIV from a direct needle stick with contaminated blood are minimal, and the risks in this case are even less. He said, though, that blood tests were still warranted.

    Smith said the hospital detected a problem with missing Demerol around the end of last year, and all nurses in the intensive care unit were given blood tests.

    He said no charges have yet been filed against the nurse who was fired, but the case has been referred to law enforcement agencies.

    The hospital is in Jourdanton, about 25 miles south of San Antonio.
  2. Visit shay profile page

    About shay

    Joined: Nov '01; Posts: 1,487; Likes: 70


  3. by   live4today
    Never heard of anything like this before! Wow! Something to ponder more seriously, I suppose! Hope no one comes up positive from that exposure, but if they do, how is one to know that they contracted the HIV virus from what that nurse did and not from somewhere, someplace, someone else??? Man! The web we weave.... :stone
  4. by   P_RN
    This is just another reason NOT to use ANY open vial!

    Almost 20 years ago we had a nurse who did something very similar in carrying around vials of "saline" that she kept her stash of stolen narcotics in, all the while injecting real saline into real pain patients.

    I NEVER worried about dating open vials because I tossed them!!

    I pray that no patients were harmed or even exposed.

  5. by   mattsmom81
    I am surprised the hospital has come forward with this. Someone must have blown the whistle on the situation...and their narcotics policy must be lacking for it to have gone this far....

    Sure is a lot of potential liability for the hospital, and of course the media will love this--another chance to sensationalize and run the title 'nurse' through the mud.....

    Drug seeking addicts can be very sneaky I admit, but I wonder about this situation and what we're NOT hearing...(I'll be anxious to follow up on this one, it's not too far from me geographically. )

    Anybody else get that impression or is my naturally suspicious nature in overdrive ? Hehehe
  6. by   CATHYW
    Those poor, trusting patients! What is the public going to think of nurses now? Nurses murdering patients so that they could "code" them, and now something like this? My husband also told me last week that he saw on the evening news that a nurse and a scool teacher were listed in the Pedophiles that the Feds had arrested.
  7. by   Zhakrin
    What is the general for nurses with addictions? Most goverment employers I know will put an employee into treatment and not fire them if there is no crime commited on site and the admission is volentary. If the find out on their own that you have this issue then they will fire you immediately.

    If this how the senerio would be in nursing?
  8. by   OC_An Khe
    Depends on what state you are in as the laws vary. Also the culture of Nursing will differ from region to region some will treat as a disease and get the addicted RN into treatment while others will fire and involve law enforcement agencies.
  9. by   micro

    first take.....
    no second......will truly can't trust anyone.....and you are truly should draw up anything from an open vial of anything unless you were the one that opened it and the last one to handle it.......otherwise dispose and start again.....

    sad if this nurse truly did this.......

    but sadder is again the cast it is going to put against health care about nurses, other health care workers, the public that is already freaked and ready to believe the next enquirer story.........hope no most of us here appear to be associated with health in some way shape or fashion.....

    last will not soapbox on, really.....
    it also throws yet again prejudice out there for anyone, let alone a HIV+ nurse that is continuing to practice safe nursing and live a peaceful and long life.......people are living with AID's now, not just dying from it.....
    but as this is another soapbox of mine.....will not box now.......

    love all,
  10. by   NurseDennie
    I'm with P_RN. I don't understand how this could happen, I guess. Did she steal the demerol and then inject the saline into HER patients, telling them that it was the demerol? I can't imagine that she would take the demerol and inject saline into the opened vial, put it back, and another nurse would actually USE it!! It doesn't make any sense at all.

    I think people are more careful with their license than that. If *I* opened my Pyxis and found a bunch of demerol already opened (or even one, really), I'd smell a fish!! I would call another nurse to witness what I found and call the pharmacy tout de suite. Yeah, it would be a big pain in the butt, but what's the alternative?

    Actually, in the hospital in which I worked, the demerol came in glass vials, or ampoules or whatever you call them. The kind that you snap their neck to open. Not possible to put away for somebody else to use.

    I know drug addiction makes the addicted person very sneaky and manipulative and paranoid. So I'm sure that she put a lot of thought into covering her tracks. But I truly don't see how another nurse would take an opened vial of a controlled substance, and use it!!?!?!??


  11. by   shay
    What about the little tubexes that demerol comes in now, where you can easily pop the needle extension off and draw the med up into a separate syringe through the little gray spongy center? She could've done that, re-injected saline, put the needle extension back on, and replaced the demerol tubexes. A nurse not paying careful attention to whether or not the tubex had been pierced could easily think it was a non-tamperd tubex and use its' contents. Great. Just one more *#@!! thing to look at when drawing up narcs.

    OR...she could've gone up through the bottom of the tubex in the rubber plunger w/a separate syringe, re-injected saline, and tampering really evident, even if you looked REALLY closely.

    Geez...I'm scaring myself now.
    Last edit by shay on Mar 29, '02
    LOL shay!

    Seriously though, I understand what you're saying. I thought the same thing the other day. We recently changed over to the needleless system with all of our IV's. When giving the predrawn tubex thing, I had to open it up and redraw it into the needleless syringe. VERY EASY to tamper with.

  13. by   live4today
    I saw the newscast regarding this situation on t.v. early this morning. They showed a picture of the hospital while telling the public what was being done. The nurse has been fired, but not charged with anything as yet. They have already started HIV testing on 1100 people, and should have the results before too long. That's all I remember them saying. So sad for the 1100 people that are going through this right now. My prayers are with them and their families this Easter Weekend. What a way for them to celebrate the Easter season! I've got to pray for that nurse too. She must have been very disturbed to do something like that. If she has been discovered tainting medication vials, how many more health care professionals have been known to do something like this that has yet to be uncovered? How many more are still doing it? Frightening, huh?
  14. by   NurseDennie
    I'd forgotten about those tubex thingies. I don't think we had demerol in them, but we sure did have morphine!

    I guess the thing to do is if the tubex isn't in the plastic box/sleeve/thingie that you pop the top off to get the tubex out, then you don't use it. I'm not describing it well. Then ones I saw came five tubexes to the packet, and each tubes was in its own little sleeve, with a separate little section at the top that you opened one at a time to get the tubex out.

    You're right, though - one MORE thing to worry about. Maybe the hospitals could hire a non-licensed person to sit and guard the Pyxis/medbox/whatever.