BOSTON (FOX 25 / MyFoxBoston.com) – Boston health officials say a paramedic may have tampered with vials of drugs.
A city public health department spokesperson says that at least 57 people treated in a city-run ambulance may have been exposed to blood-borne illnesses. They say an unidentified paramedic may have tampered with syringes full of sedatives and painkillers during six-week period in the summer of 2011.
Health officials over the weekend began notifying potential victims to inform them and offer free medical testing. Officials said there is nothing to indicate the paramedic has any type of infectious disease.
The paramedic is thought to have tampered with powerful painkillers like morphine and fentanyl.
Seven people who were treated by that paramedic have passed away, but officials believe the deaths were unrelated to the possible drug contamination.
A criminal investigation is underway. The paramedic was relieved of all duties since the alleged misconduct was discovered on Sept. 7, 2011. So far, the paramedic is not facing any charges.
Officials did not say why they believe the paramedic tampered with the medicines.
Statement from Boston EMS:
BOSTON - As part of an ongoing investigation initiated by Boston EMS into misconduct by one of its uniformed paramedics, the department has notified 57 patients that they potentially received compromised medications during EMS treatment. The 57 patients received doses of controlled medications that may have been tampered with by the suspected employee during a six week period in the summer of 2011.
All 57 patients have been offered free screening for infectious diseases, and the Boston Public Health Commission is running an incident hotline staffed by trained clinicians to answer questions and provide information to these individuals. However, the department is not aware of the suspect having or transmitting an infectious disease to any patients.
The paramedic in question has been relieved of all duties since the alleged misconduct was discovered, and EMS cannot comment on any details pertaining to the employee's activities because of an ongoing criminal investigation.
Although EMS's review of transport records for these patients showed no indication of adverse health outcomes as a result of the medication they received, the department decided to inform them out of an abundance of caution for their safety.
While the alleged drug tampering happened last summer, Boston EMS was unable to accurately identify the small number of patients that may have been exposed to compromised medications until the state lab completed its testing of medication vials at the end of July 2012. These tests results then allowed EMS to identify 64 patients that potentially received compromised medications.
Seven of the patients identified passed away soon after transport for reasons related to their initial catastrophic injury or medical event.
It is unclear at this time how many of the 64 patients actually received compromised medications, but the group represents a very small subset, approximately 0.4%, of the 16,968 patients encountered by EMS during the time period in question.
Paramedics are required to have access to a limited number of controlled medications in order to provide vital pre-hospital care to patients. Boston EMS administers fentanyl, lorazepam, and midazolam for treatment in certain situations. The department previously carried morphine, but has not since last November. The patients that were notified were treated with one of these four controlled medications.
EMS is cooperating fully with authorities in the criminal investigation against the suspected employee.
Members of the public that have questions about Boston EMS services should contact the central office at 617-343-2367.