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2,600 Good Samaritan patients notified of potential Hepatitis C exposure

Good Samaritan Hospital. (KOMO, file)

PUYALLUP, Wash. (KOMO) - MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup is notifying about 2,600 of its former patients that they should be tested for Hepatitis C after learning that two patients were infected with the disease while in the hospital's emergency department.

Officials say an investigation found that one of the hospital's nurses was removing higher-than-normal amounts of narcotics from the emergency department's dispensing system and admitted to stealing medications intended for patients.

Further investigation found that the nurse tested positive for Hepatitis C and had treated both of the patients known to be infected. Hepatitis C is most commonly transmitted by exposure to an infected person’s blood through shared needles.

It's not exactly clear how the infection was passed on from the nurse to the two patients. However, Good Samaritan Hospital is now notifying about 2,600 patients treated in the emergency department between August 4, 2017, and March 23, 2018, who received injections of narcotic, antihistamine or sedatives of the possibility of exposure to Hepatitis C.

Not all of those patients were treated by the infected nurse, but they are all being strongly urged to get free testing for Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B and HIV in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations.

The nurse no longer works for the hospital. She has been reported to the Puyallup Police Department for theft.

Hospital officials say the group of patients potentially affected represents less than 5 percent of the 54,000 patients who were treated in the emergency department during the period in question. Good Samaritan patients who do not receive notification letters this week are not at risk.

A Good Samaritan spokesperson called the possibility of infections an "isolated situation," adding that the hospital is taking "appropriate and responsible actions."

"We deeply value the trust of our community, and apologize for the worry this will create. We have taken extensive measures to identify anyone who may have been at risk for exposure, out of interest for the health and safety of our patients and the community,” said Chris Bredeson, president and CEO of Good Samaritan. "We remain committed to the highest standards of patient care and are working to make sure the affected patients are supported and have the information they need."

As part of the investigation, Good Samaritan thoroughly examined its processes and have now added a new report to existing detailed reporting about medication use in the hospital. The new report will help identify employees who deviate from standard practices for medication use.

The hospital also says it will provide free treatment to any patient who was infected while in the emergency department.

Hepatitis C is an infection of the liver that is usually spread when blood from a person infected with the Hepatitis C virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. Hepatitis C is most commonly transmitted by exposure to an infected person’s blood through shared needles.

Treatment can cure most Hepatitis C infections. However, if left untreated, Hepatitis C can cause serious long-term health problems.

Symptoms of Hepatitis C may include stomach pain, vomiting or yellow eyes or skin, however, 70 percent of people infected with Hepatitis C do not have symptoms.

More information is available here.

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