A New Jersey hospital announced they may have exposed more than 200 patients to either HIV or Hepatitis B and C after an employee allegedly tampered with drugs.
“We have contacted all patients who received certain intravenous medication between June 1, 2013 and Sept. 17, 2014,” Brian Cahill said on behalf of Shore Medical Center said, reports Press of Atlantic City. “We are providing free testing and support through every step and are partnering with local health department agencies during this testing period in order to be extremely cautious.”
Authorities arrested the hospital’s former pharmacist, 53-year-old Frederick P. McLeish. The man is accused of tampering with vials administered to patients that exposed patients to his blood, CBS reports.
“The Department of Health is working with Shore Medical Center to investigate a potential infection control breach at the hospital,” said Dawn Thomas, a state department spokeswoman. “Although the risk of infection is low, out of an abundance of caution, the Department of Health is recommending that affected patients receive testing for hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV.”
McLeish is also being accused of theft and drug possession.
He could spend up to ten years in jail if he is found guilty.
Patients were shocked and concerned upon receiving the notifications.
“We are talking a year and a half that people could have been exposed and getting sick from this,” Arlene Polmonari said. “How many people could have brought it home to their spouses or pregnant women to their babies or whatever, and they are just now letting people know?”
Polmonari explained she couldn’t sleep at all the night before she was to be tested. Although she tested negative for all three, she was critical of the hospital.
“A phone call would have been nicer than this. You know, to soften the blow a little, make people not feel so hysterical about it,” she said.
However, the hospital thinks they’ve done the best they can.
“The authorities have commended us on our self initiated internal investigation and swift action in this matter, and we have received many accolades from industry watchdogs for our quality and safe medical care,” Cahill said.