Hastings nurse gives meds ‘incorrectly,’ potentially exposes 186 to disease

BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
Former Reporter
06/08/2018 08:30 PM
TAHLEQUAH – A nurse administering medications “incorrectly” at W.W. Hastings Hospital has led to the possibility of 186 patients potentially being exposed to infectious diseases, including HIV and hepatitis C, Cherokee Nation officials said.

“A nurse was administering medications incorrectly. The nurse used the same vial of medication and syringe to inject more than one IV bag,” a spokesperson for Cherokee Nation Health Services said. “Patients were never directly in contact with any needle. In all instances, medication was administered into an IV bag, or tubing. The likelihood of blood borne pathogens traveling up the lines into an IV bag or IV tubing to cause cross contamination from using the same syringe is extremely remote.”

Officials said 64 of the 186 identified patients have returned to the hospital, which is operated by CN Health Services, to receive blood testing and “none showed any exposure.”

The incident was discovered by the CN’s medication diversion prevention program at an unspecified date and time, which prompted investigation.

“Out of an abundance of caution and concern, and after consulting with our infectious disease specialist, we recommended those patients return for laboratory testing as a precaution and for our patients’ peace of mind,” a spokesperson for Cherokee Nation Health Services said.

Officials said the incident was an “employment matter” and declined to identify the nurse involved. It was unclear as of publication if the nurse was still employed at the hospital.

The information comes after CN citizen John Wagnon spoke publicly about being identified as a potentially exposed patient following a dental procedure in January.

“I just went in for my dental surgery and thought everything was fine,” Wagnon, of Grove, said. “Then five, six months later I get a call saying I got to get tested because there was a lapse in procedure. There was a possibility I might have been exposed to hepatitis C, HIV...”

Wagnon said Health Services called him on June 4 asking him to come in for blood tests, nearly five months after his procedure.

“I asked what exactly happened and she said, ‘I don’t know. They haven’t told me. They just said you need to get a hold of him to tell him to come in and get tested,’” he said.

Wagnon, a husband and father to two daughters, said his tests came back negative but that he would need to return in three months for more testing.

“My wife is a registered nurse. I’ve worked in the medical field. I know one test isn’t just going to rule everything out right away,” he said. “I could have had it this past couple of months and somehow transferred it to my daughters or my wife and now I’ve put their life in jeopardy.”

HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, weakens the immune system by destroying cells that fight disease and infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There’s no cure for HIV, though it can be controlled in some cases.

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus that causes acute and chronic liver infection. It’s contracted after coming into contact with the blood of an infected person, most often by sharing contaminated needles and other equipment used in injections, according to the CDC.

Wagnon said he understands the gravity of a possible diagnosis after working for Willow Crest Hospital/Moccasin Bend Ranch in Miami, Oklahoma.

“We had patients that had hepatitis C, and we had to watch for, if we had to place them in a hold, them spitting on us and proper procedure to clean up blood and everything if there was an accident,” he said. “Taking all these precautions all these years not to get it and everything, and it’s going for same-day surgery... Nothing I could have done about it.”

Officials said free blood testing is available to any CN citizen at Hastings Hospital and the tribe’s health centers in Muskogee, Jay, Nowata, Salina, Sallisaw, Stilwell and Vinita.

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