Blood Infection Outbreak at NY Hospital Caused by Opioid-Stealing Nurse

An outbreak of a rare blood infection in a New York hospital traced back to an opioid-stealing nurse, reports Gizmodo. According to the technology and science website, six cancer patients developed a serious and rare blood infection from June to July 2018 at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, New York. According to the website, none of the victims died as a result of being infected by Sphingomonas paucimobilis.

The bacterial infection is typically found in soil and water, thus rarely harming people. When six people all came down with the infection – which sickens individuals to the point of constant vomiting – hospital authorities say they suspected a medical contamination. After an investigation at the hospital, authorities realized the common thread between the patients involved a nurse who administered their hydromorphone intravenously.  Hydromorphone is a powerful opioid. In response to questions by hospital investigators, the nurse admitted that she removed a certain amount of medication for the patients and then diluted the syringe with water so the dosage appeared unchanged.

Authorities say they “concluded that a portion of the narcotic had been removed and replaced with an equal volume of tap water, which contaminated the [intravenous drugs] with waterborne bacteria.” Of the six patients infected by the bloodborne bacteria, Gizmodo reports that two were hospitalized and required a prolonged course of antibiotics. The other patients were already hospitalized and the infection may have prolonged their stay. Sadly, three passed away shortly after due to other complications from their cancer.

The cancer hospital said that it fired the 27-year-old nurse, whose name is Kelsey A. Mulvey, in September 2018. Prosecutors charged the nurse with crimes relating to the infections, as well as more crimes alleging she stole opioid pills and other narcotics, including the benzodiazepine Lorazepam. At her first court appearance, she pleaded not guilty to all charges. To prevent this problem from reoccurring, the New York cancer hospital said that “security surveillance was intensified, including installation of video monitoring” in the immediate aftermath. Further, “[hospital] staff was given training and education on how to spot doctors and other medical professionals trying to illegally divert drugs away from patients.”

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