Shore Medical Center of Somers Point, N.J. recently informed 213 patients who received intravenous morphine or hydromorphine that they may have been exposed to HIV or hepatitis B or C.
Shore Medical Center of Somers Point, N.J. recently informed 213 patients who received intravenous morphine or hydromorphine that they may have been exposed to HIV or hepatitis B or C because of suspected drug tampering by a pharmacist.
"We have been working with public health authorities to determine if patients could have been exposed to blood-borne pathogens at Shore through contact with this employee's blood," said Brian Cahill, a hospital spokesperson.
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Specifically, the hospital is investigating whether patients who received IV medication between July 1, 2013 and Sept. 17, 2014 later contracted HIV or hepatitis B or C.
“We take patient care very seriously. Through our safety protocol, we identified inconsistencies in a former pharmacy employee's work. We immediately suspended the employee and conducted a thorough internal investigation. The employee was terminated, and we notified the proper regulatory agencies,” Cahill said.
Patients were informed of the potential problem after an investigation by the Atlantic County Prosecutors Office of 53 year-old pharmacist Frederick P. McLeish.
Prosecutors allege that, between July and September 2014, McLeish removed morphine from vials and replaced the drug with saline solution. Prosecutors alleged that McLeish stole the drugs for personal use.
State health officials fear McLeish’s reuse of needles may have exposed patients to his blood.
In January, McLeish was charged with drug tampering, theft by unlawful taking, and possession of a controlled dangerous substance. He was jailed on $20,000 bail. McLeish had been suspended since September 2014.