September 24, 2010
The Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, FL is sending warning letters to 5,000 patients potentially exposed to Hepatitis C from a hospital worker who injected himself with painkillers intended for patients and refilled the syringes with saline, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times.
Hepatitis C is a viral infection that attacks the liver causing inflammation. It is potentially fatal.
47-year-old Steven Beumel was a radiology technician at Mayo Clinic from October 11, 2004 to August 21, 2010. He also worked at St. Luke’s Hospital, owned at the time by Mayo, from 2004 to 2008.
The hospital is working in cooperation with the Florida Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Mayo Clinic assembled the patient list by who had a procedure on the days Beumel worked and in the part of the hospital he where he worked. As of Sunday Sept. 19, the hospital has drawn or scheduled labs for approximately 2,400 patients.
“We want to ensure that every patient who might be at risk is tested,” Dr. William C. Rupp, chief executive officer of Mayo Clinic in Florida said in a statement. “Thanks to the diligent work of our team of data specialists, along with the outside data assurance firms and consultation with the Florida Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we are confident that we are at a point where we’ve identified the vast majority of patients who were put at risk by this former employee.”
Beumel’s testing positive for Hepatitis C and admission of using the patient injections on himself was the missing piece to a three-year investigation into how three patients contracted hepatitis C at the hospital. Testing of the hepatitis C strain in the patients proved it is similar to Beumel’s strain.
“Mayo Clinic will do whatever is necessary to support the needs of its patients,” says Dr. Rupp. “Patient safety is central to the trust the organization shares with its patients. Mayo Clinic is working to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. The multiple systems in place to control narcotics are being strengthened further to create even tighter control.”