Police are investigating at least one death at a hospital in Medford, Oregon, after a nurse allegedly switched the medical fentanyl in patients’ IVs with tap water, The Rogue Valley Times reported Jan. 3.
Sources at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center said as many as 10 patients died of infections or pseudomonas (infectious bacteria) from the non-sterile water, KOBI-TV in Medford reported on Dec. 29.
But police were investigating only one death, according to the Times, which said the families of two victims had confirmed the loss of their loved ones.
The outlet said unidentified hospital sources had confirmed that dozens of patients were injured when their medication was replaced with another substance.
The sources said a nurse had swapped out their fentanyl for personal use.
Fentanyl — a potent synthetic opioid whose abuse is responsible for tens of thousands of overdose deaths in the U.S. each year — is sometimes prescribed as a pain reliever in hospitals, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center has been tight-lipped about the incidents.
“We were distressed to learn of this issue. We reported it to law enforcement and are working closely with them,” a hospital representative told KOBI.
Police also have not confirmed many of the details reported by local media.
Medford Police Lt. Geoff Kirkpatrick made a statement Jan. 3 regarding the incidents, according to The Oregonian.
Kirkpatrick said police were a month into the investigation involving a former hospital employee who allegedly stole medication from patients, resulting in “adverse” outcomes.
He didn’t say whether the stolen substance was fentanyl or how many patients had died or been affected, the outlet reported.
The Times, however, interviewed the families of two victims who died over the last year from similar incidents at the hospital.
A Grants Pass resident, Garrett Atwood, said he got a call from the hospital on Dec. 18 and learned that his brother’s death on Nov. 11, 2022, was from an infection caused by tap water that had been put into the patient’s IV bag.
Diane Rogers, a resident of Klamath Falls, said she had lost her 74-year-old husband in a similar way on July 26. She said she was notified that he had died from infection due to someone swapping the IV’s fentanyl with tap water.
He was being treated for a bedsore.
“I remember thinking, ‘How does a bedsore go downhill so bad?'” Rogers said. “And to do that in the ICU, it’s like they were picking the ones who were the worse off or couldn’t talk. He kept looking at me and his eyes would roll back. I’d say, ‘He’s in pain,’ and the nurse would say, ‘No, he isn’t.'”
Hospital sources told the Times that water in the Intensive Care Unit and the Coronary Care Unit are unsafe even for washing the patients’ faces.
Dr. Robin Miller, the host of KOBI’s “Docs on Call,” said it’s not unusual for nurses or other medical personnel to switch out a patient’s medication for personal misuse — a practice called “drug diversion.”
“You don’t think of medical professionals doing this, but 10 percent of medical professionals divert drugs. 10 percent … That’s a lot,” she said.
KOBI reported Jan. 5 that multiple law firms were representing Asante victims and their families.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.