Hospital warns patients of possible HIV, hepatitis exposure

AP News
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Posted: Feb 25, 2016 12:14 PM

SOMERS POINT, N.J. (AP) — Officials at a southern New Jersey hospital have notified 213 patients they may have been exposed to HIV or hepatitis B or C because of drug tampering that may have caused patients to come in contact with an employee's blood.

The warning applied to patients at Shore Medical Center in Somers Point who received intravenous morphine or hydromorphone medications at the hospitals between June 1, 2013, and Sept. 17, 2014, the medical center said.

A former pharmacist at the hospital allegedly tampered with the drugs by replacing morphine with saline solution in vials that were administered to patients, according to an internal investigation at the hospital and the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office.

The ex-employee was arrested last month and charged with drug tampering, theft and drug possession.

In its letter to patients, the hospital said the tampering may have caused patients to come in contact with the ex-employee's blood and urged patients to get tested, The Press of Atlantic City reported (http://bit.ly/24rvwYM). The hospital said it's providing free testing for patients who may have been exposed and has set up a dedicated call center for affected patients and family members who have questions.

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Health said the agency is investigating a potential infection control breach at the hospital.

Arlene Polmonari, of Atlantic City, received the letter last week that she might have been exposed to the diseases due to past surgeries for a knee replacement and a procedure for her back.

"A phone call would have been nicer than this," said Polmonari, who tested negative for the diseases. "You know, to soften the blow a little, make people not feel so hysterical about it."

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Information from: The Press of Atlantic City (N.J.), http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com