CEO At Center of Meningitis Outbreak Speaks

Philip Betbeze, for HealthLeaders Media , October 19, 2012

Subsequent testing by the hospital's doctors and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta discovered that the illnesses were related to the drugs, and suddenly, Rudolph found herself and her hospital at the center of one of the biggest prescription drug scandals in recent memory.

Saint Thomas is far from the only hospital affected by the outbreak. It just happened to be the first to notice widespread problems with patients who had been injected. And it's at the epicenter of a whole new area of worry and potential liability for hospitals nationwide.

The clinic that unwittingly injected the contaminated drugs, the Saint Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgery Center, is not affiliated with the hospital, even though it is located within the building.

But Rudolph says the majority of the patients who were sickened were initially treated in Saint Thomas's emergency department. Once the connection was made to the tainted drugs, the clinic took the responsibility to notify all its patients who might have been exposed. That left Rudolph and her clinical and administrative leaders and to deal with the rest.

She quickly found out that the public doesn't necessarily make distinctions about the ownership of an unaffiliated clinic, especially one that carries the hospital's name. The public knew it happened on Saint Thomas's campus.

To try to get ahead of the situation, Rudolph organized coordination calls with the clinic outlining who was responsible for what, and tried to determine the best course of action as it became evident that the crisis would grow larger.

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