Medford Nurse May Be Responsible For Deaths Allegedly Linked to Fentanyl Replaced By Tap Water

Nurse in Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center may be responsible for multiple deaths. While no one has been charged with a crime yet, the Medford police investigation is still ongoing.

In December, Grants Pass resident Garrett Atwood was advised that his brother’s death on November 11 2022 was allegedly caused by a central line infection arising from Fentanyl being replaced by non-sterile tap water by a hospital nurse.  He is one of two families who say that  Asante staff told them that a nurse’s alleged actions contributed to deaths. Some sources say that up to ten patients died in similar circumstances.

UPDATE: Officials Are Tight-Lipped As Investigations Continue Into The Asante Fentanyl Hospital Deaths In Medford

In the case of Atwood, his brother Samuel Allison- a 36-year-old combat veteran, was admitted to the hospital on Oct. 14, 2022, for liver failure. Shortly after leaving the ICU,- where his condition had stabilized and his prognosis was seen to be good. Allison presented with an infection He was then transferred to Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, but died within a few days.

Atwood has claimed that Asante officials informed family members that his brother’s pain medication was tampered with and that his brother’s infection was directly linked to the tap water that the nurse in question was replacing it with. He also said that the nurse was reported to the medical board and the police, and is no longer working in the medical field.

A second death- that of 74-year-old retired transportation planner for the Southern California Association of Governments, Barry Samsten was also caused by a bacterial infection after fentanyl was replaced with non-sterile tap water according to Asante officials. His wife, Klamath Falls resident Diane Rogers confirmed that he was being treated for a bedsore, but appeared to be in pain- something that the nurse looking after him at the time denied. Multiple organ failure and septic shock are listed as the cause of death on the death certificate.

In both cases, sources allege that fentanyl was removed from IV bags and replaced with tap water by a hospital nurse. Referred to as diversion which- according to the National Library of Medicine, means the transfer of a controlled substance from a lawful to an unlawful channel of distribution or use, the practice is not isolated. Dr. Robin Miller, host of the Docs on Call program, said infections like sepsis and pneumonia were dangerous for patients already in fragile health. Alarmingly, Miller indicated that 10% of medical professionals engage in this malpractice- and fentanyl is one of the most commonly diverted drugs.

As sterile alternatives should be easily available for use by healthcare professionals tap water is especially ill-advised, and crimes of this nature are commonly investigated by federal agencies, including the FBI and DEA. In this instance, An investigation was launched by Medford Police, but no details have been released. According to Medford police Lt. Geoff Kirkpatrick, the investigation is in its very preliminary stages and they have no further information available for release.

The criminal investigation is underway at the Oregon hospital, and several hospital sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity indicated that dozens of patients have been harmed by medication diversion. Hospital officials declined an interview and have indicated that they are cooperating with law enforcement. Other sources allege that the water supply in the Coronary Care Section and Intensive Care Unit- both located in an older part of the hospital, is unsafe for use on patients, and in 2023 the hospital made several statements regarding infections and water quality issues.

Reported to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services as part of the Hospital Inpatient Quality Reporting Program, central line infections are also reported to the Oregon Health Authority monthly. The Associated Infections database of the Health Authority’s Hospital Healthcare indicates that between 2016 and 2021, Asante Rogue Regional had low instances of central line infections.

One to three infections per year at the hospital were recorded between 2016 and 2021, except in 2020 during the onset of the pandemic when 7 were noted. Data for 2022 and 2023 is unknown as it is not available on the state database, but on July 6- weeks before Samsten died, Asante reported they were undertaking ongoing efforts to reduce hospital-acquired infections, following a spike in  CLABSI cases over the winter. The Oregon Health Authority as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were engaged to assess Asante’s action plans and provide feedback.

Before this- on April 14, Asante had acknowledged that severe central line infections had previously been linked to waterborne bacteria but reported no water contamination at their facilities. However the investigations may confirm that unsterile tap water- which can lead to pseudomonas, a dangerous infection, especially for individuals in poor health, and other conditions, played a role in the death of patients.

While no one has been charged with a crime yet, the Medford police investigation is still ongoing.

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