Nurse anesthetist re-used needles at Norman clinic, report states

Nurses Activism


  • Home Health Columnist / Guide
    Specializes in Vents, Telemetry, Home Care, Home infusion.

WHERE WERE HIS BRAINS.........or just laziness???

Copyright 2002 The Daily Oklahoman


Jim Killackey, Staff Writer

A Norman nurse anesthetist "regularly engaged in the

practice of re-using the same needle and syringe" for at least 15

patients a day at a Norman Regional Hospital pain management

clinic, according to a report released Tuesday by the state Health


James C. Hill discontinued the practice after he was reported to

the hospital's peer review board, state epidemiologist Dr. Mike

Crutcher said in a report to Oklahoma Board of Nursing investigator Betty Smelser. Hill, 55, is a certified registered nurse anesthetist. Repeated attempts to contact Hill were unsuccessful.

The two agencies are investigating blood contamination that led

to six patients contracting hepatitis C and 350 patients being

tested for hepatitis and for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

A class action lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Cleveland County

District Court against Norman Regional Hospital and Dr. Jerry W.


The suit claims patients at the clinic were exposed to hepatitis

C, hepatitis B and HIV because of negligence and breaches in

standards of care.

In the report to the nursing board, Crutcher notes that: "Prior

to June, 2002, Mr. Hill reports that he regularly engaged in the

practice of reusing the same needle and syringe to inject

anesthetic medications such as Versed, Fentanyl and Propofol to as many as 15-25 patients in one day through the existing heparin lock."

The anesthetic medications were given to calm patients before

spinal block injections were administered a short time later by

Lewis, a pain management specialist who was Hill's physician


"Mr. Hill subsequently discontinued this practice," Crutcher

stated in the report. "Mr. Hill reports that he no longer has a

physician sponsor, and therefore is not practicing currently. He is

aware of the current investigation and is cooperating fully."

The report was obtained through an Open Records Act request by The Oklahoman.

Lewis and Hill had staff privileges at Norman Regional but were

not hospital employees. They no longer have staff privileges.

A public records check of the 409 certified registered nurse

anesthetists practicing in Oklahoma indicated that only one, Hill,

lives in Norman. The Board of Nursing certified Hill in 1978. He

was certified as a nurse anesthetist in 1991.

Hill has been routinely recertified during his career in

Oklahoma. No complaints have been filed with the Board of Nursing.

Bill M. Lamb, 61, the plaintiff in the lawsuit, said he was

shocked and frightened.

"With the advances they have in medicine these days, to let

something like this happen is unacceptable," Lamb said Tuesday.

Lamb, a retiree from Tinker Air Force Base, said he was treated

with epidural injections in the lower back twice this year by Lewis

and Hill.

While he noticed nothing unusual at the time of the injections,

Lamb said he now has trouble sleeping and eating because of fears associated with hepatitis and HIV.

Lamb said he received a letter dated Sept. 6 from Crutcher and

hospital Chief Executive David Whitaker outlining the need for one blood examination now and another in three months to test for hepatitis and HIV.

"Although we have no evidence that other types of infections

have occurred in this clinic, hepatitis B and HIV testing are also

routinely recommended in this type of situation," the letter reads.

The six patients who tested positive for hepatitis C are

recovering. About 350 patients seen between Dec. 31 and Aug. 19 need blood tests to determine whether they have the disease.

"It is unfortunate that the recent health concern being

addressed by Norman Regional Hospital has sparked a race to the Courthouse on the part of lawyers trying to get cases on file even before the facts are known," Glen D. Huff, Norman Regional's attorney, said Tuesday in a statement.

"We would hope the public recognizes that Norman Regional

Hospital has been the moving force behind this investigation, even

though it involves health care providers who were not employed by

the hospital and for whom the hospital is not legally responsible."

The plaintiffs' attorneys, David L. Thomas and Jerry L.

Breathwit, said their clients are entitled to recover the costs of

periodic medical monitoring "to determine whether or not they have in fact contracted hepatitis C or other illnesses as a result of

their exposure."

Lewis has denied any wrongdoing.

"The problem did not originate from the manner in which Dr.

Lewis performed any of the procedures," according to a statement issued by his office Monday.


859 Posts

Nobody who got through CRNA school is that dumb. He's just lazy. And criminally negligent. Oh, and evil.


1 Article; 5,758 Posts

I feel so sorry for all those terrified patients, I can try to imagine how they feel but you have to go through something like this to really understand. When I first read this at Healthleaders I felt faint and sick with anger over what happened.


124 Posts

I would like to know how they found out about this. I didn't see it in the article above. Does anyone know?

What an idiot!!!!!!!!!


2,099 Posts

Specializes in Corrections, Psych, Med-Surg.

I think there must be something missing from this story.

Why would anyone bother to reuse the same needle/syringe? It is just as easy to open a new one (which will also be sharper and go through the hep lock a lot easier than one which has been used 15 times, I would guess). The story just makes no sense.

PS--a day later: I take it back, just thought of a possible reason. You could fill a large syringe completely with whatever med you were going to give repeatedly during the day, and just put what you need at a particular time through a patient's hep lock. That saves on refilling a different syringe each time. And since only hep locks were used, there would be no blood-blood risk involved if they were properly flushed each time. Maybe flushed from another large multi-use syringe? (Mind you, I don't know if that was the thinking, it was just the only reason I could think of that made any sense at all. Maybe others can think of better reasons.)


784 Posts

(which is one possibility) WHY would they risk a 100K+ per year job to save on medical supplies for which THEY were not even paying. Is it possible that the FACILITY has some sort of "covert" policy of reusing the needles? Does anyone out there know if there is precedent for this sort of thing? In any case that nurse had a responsibility to do the right thing and SHOULD go to jail for a real long time.

My mother was receiving injections in her spine from the clinic when this nurse was sharing needles. She developed sepsis and died on 01/26/2002. Is it possible this is the cause? We DO NOT want to pursue legal action, but are just trying to find a cause. My dad ate everywhere she did and did not become ill. She was in such poor health that her death was a releif to her, but curiosity is killing this cat.


2,450 Posts

(which is one possibility) WHY would they risk a 100K+ per year job to save on medical supplies for which THEY were not even paying. Is it possible that the FACILITY has some sort of "covert" policy of reusing the needles? Does anyone out there know if there is precedent for this sort of thing? In any case that nurse had a responsibility to do the right thing and SHOULD go to jail for a real long time.



164 Posts

Specializes in PCU, ICU, PACU.

Did anyone notice the date on the article is 2002? I wonder what happened with the lawsuit?

Specializes in Critical Care, Pediatrics, Geriatrics.

I have a couple questions...

If he was accessing the port through a hep lock then why was he using a needle? (to draw up the med?) Surely a needle wasn't used over and over for several patients...come on, this guy could not have gotten away with that unnoticed, which brings me to my next question...

where was everybody else? Surely he was not the only person in the room every time if what the article claims is true, that he reused needles and syringes on a daily basis 15+ times a day...

And why is the doctor not being held responsible too...all this controversy over CRNAs and the MDs complaining they should be supervised...shouldn't he have stepped in every now and then to check things out???

And finally, this guy ADMITTED to this and said he has done no WRONGDOING!!! Either he is a total DINGBAT or this story is skewed a bit factually

Specializes in PeriOp, ICU, PICU, NICU.

Lazy moron! :stone

According to the Daily Oklahoman, the nurse lost his license in February of 2003. There was a settlement for $25 million in the case.

This topic is now closed to further replies.

By using the site, you agree with our Policies. X