Nurse who potentially exposed 186 patients no longer at Hastings Hospital
TAHLEQUAH – A registered nurse who potentially exposed 186 patients to HIV and hepatitis C by administering medications “incorrectly” at W.W. Hastings Hospital is no longer employed with the tribe, Hastings Hospital CEO Brian Hail said.
“The nurse responsible for this lapse in protocol is no longer employed by Cherokee Nation,” Hail said during the June 11 Health Committee meeting. “To my knowledge, they’re not working with the Cherokee Nation at all. I know they’re not in Cherokee Nation Health (Services).”
The potential exposures stemmed from a registered nurse using the same piece of medical equipment on patients from January to April, Hail said. The CN’s medication diversion prevention program discovered and reported it to Health Services in late April, he said.
A Health Services spokeswoman said the nurse used the same vial of medication and syringe to inject more than one IV bag. “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.”
Hail said of the 186 patients contacted for testing, 89 had been tested and “show no harmful exposure.” Health Services appointed an infection prevention nurse to notify all patients who were affected by the incident.
“Any of the patients that we believe were at potential risk, we’ve identified and contacted. We’re still working on eight that we have yet to reach by phone,” Hail said. “We believe we acted in an abundance of caution, that we cast a pretty wide net so anyone that should be concerned, we’ve made contact with.”
Hail said the incident is also not limited to the dental department, confirming there was a “cross” into other departments and areas, including the operating room.
When asked by Tribal Councilors if any disciplinary action had been taken against the nurse, Hail declined to comment, citing “employment matters.” He also told Tribal Councilors that it wasn’t the Health Services’ responsibility to report any potential incidents to revoke a medical license.
As of publication, Hail said Health Services had “not reported it,” though it was “going to be considered.”
The information comes after CN citizen John Wagnon, of Grove, 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 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.’”
Wagnon said his tests came back negative but that he would need to return in three months for more testing.