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Clinic: Radiologic Tech Gave Patients Hepatitis

August 30, 2010
Written by: , Filed in: Practice Management
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Fired and then arrested in quick succession last week, a radiologic technologist has been accused of infecting three patients with hepatitis C while stealing drugs during the course of his work at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida.

One of the patients, according to the clinic, died at least partly because of the disease.

Mayo administrators said on Wednesday that they had fired an employee who had admitted injecting himself with syringes of the painkiller fentanyl. The drug was intended for patients undergoing invasive procedures at the radiology unit where the employee worked. They said the employee, who had hepatitis, filled the emptied syringes with saline, changed the needles, and left the syringes to be used on the patients. Some of the syringes apparently became contaminated with the hepatitis virus despite the needle change.

The clinic did not identify the fired employee. However, shortly after the announcement, Steven Beumel, a state-licensed radiologic technologist and married father of two, was arrested at his lawyer’s office and charged with fraudulently obtaining a controlled substance.

A police report says Beumel acknowledged that he was addicted to fentanyl and had been stealing drugs while at the clinic since 2006. He had worked at Mayo since early 2005.

Beumel’s attorney told the Florida Times-Union newspaper that his client didn’t know that he had hepatitis. That fact, said attorney Adam Sacks, should make make a crucial difference in whether additional charges are brought regarding the patient infections and death. Said Sacks:

From my standpoint, if you don’t know you’re sick, you’re not being reckless in what you’re doing.

WJXT TV (Channel 4) in Jacksonville reported that William Rupp, MD, CEO of Mayo Clinic in Florida, said the hospital first discovered several cases of hepatitis C in transplant patients in 2007. “Because we had tested these patients before the treatment and after the treatment, we believed that this was a health-care-acquired infection,” Dr. Rupp said. “Over the ensuing couple of years, several more cases appeared.”

Eventually, the clinic discovered that at least three of the hepatitis viral samples were almost identical genetically. Employee tests for hepatitis turned up a positive result. “When we did that genetic testing on his hepatitis C, it matched the hepatitis C of the three patients,” Dr. Rupp said.

Related seminar: The Business of Radiology

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