ST. CLOUD, Minn. (WCCO/AP) — A nurse has been suspended pending a criminal investigation into a series of unusual bacterial infections among patients at St. Cloud Hospital.

The infections were found in 23 patients in February, which prompted hospital officials to launch an investigation. The patients had all been on the same floor from October 2010 up until earlier this month.

Hospital officials say they noticed a pattern of the mysterious infections last month, which left the patients with abnormally high fevers.

The patients have all since recovered from the infections.

“The nurse was able to access that IV medication bag and withdrew fluid from that IV medication bag and replaced it with saline,” said Linda Chmielewski, the hospital’s chief nursing officer and vice president of operations.

The switch went undetected for months.

“The fluids look the same and unless you’re comparing two bags right next to each other, you would never know that any of this had gone on,” she said.

Hospital spokeswoman Jeanine Nistler said the nurse is suspected of introducing the infection while diverting pain-killing medication for personal use.

The hospital suspects when the nurse replaced the fluids, it somehow contaminated the IV bags, which were then used on patients.

“We want them to understand we are extremely sorry for what’s happened, that we will be in contact and that we will be evaluating these cases as close as possible,” Nistler said.

The hospital is working with the Minnesota Department of Health to investigate the infections.

Officials say St. Cloud Hospital responded to the situation by removing all patient-controlled intravenous bags containing pain medication and replacing them with new bags, testing bags for bacteria and evaluating employee and hospital-wide practices for administering narcotics.

Hospital officials say there is no evidence that the transmission of blood-borne pathogens, such as Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV occurred as part of the infections.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

NewsRadio 830 WCCO’s Susie Jones Reports

Comments (11)
  1. huh!? says:

    that’s all the information you have? really???? kinda small for such a big deal lol

    1. What is wrong with people? says:

      No kidding…My Mom had surgery (and I know of 3 others as well) at that hospital the end of last year. What is the timeframe, etc. that this happened?

      1. JKB says:

        March 2010 up until last month the article stated. Guess if your loved ones became more ill youd know if they were one of the victims.

    2. sunshine says:

      Notice the line at the end “Hospital officials scheduled a news conference for Wednesday afternoon.”
      This is all the info they have so far. I figure it is better to get info out than to sit on it.

  2. Lisa says:

    It is now Friday evening. No more information?

    Are the people still sick? Did anyone die? What type of bacterial infection? Common? Rare? If meds were replaced with water or saline does that mean that the water or saline were harmful? Was bacteria transferred by using unsanitary methods? C’mon, ‘CCO. You can do better.

    1. sunshine says:

      Today is still Wednesday. It was updated after you’d posted your comment, but they did post an update when they said they would.

  3. Marv says:

    My brother in law was in the hospital for surgery. On his second dose of IV pain meds, It did nothing. He complained, they replaced the bag…he then had immediate relief. He is sure that this happened to him.

  4. jon says:

    why don’t the people that deal with meds have to take random drug tests? I’m in transportation and I do…

  5. K says:

    Good question Jon? Lisa–go back and read the article to get the answers to your questions.

  6. Iconoclast says:

    I heard somewhere that nurses are huge into prescription pain killers and doctors like to hit the booze. I assume it’s because as a doctor if you get caught or fail a drug test you lose your medical license. As a nurse you probably could call in union support and go to treatment. I don’t know though. One thing is for sure, it is an awful thing to do when you take painkillers from someone who hurts and then use them to f yourself up.

  7. Valerie says:

    must be mersa- they won’t put up my comments

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