Officials Investigate Infections At Minn. Hospital

By Esme Murphy, WCCO-TV

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.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.)

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