Nurse's Alleged Negligence Prompts Criminal Investigation

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , October 7, 2009

Fort Lauderdale Police are trying to determine if a veteran nurse at Broward General Medical Center committed a crime by allegedly knowingly reusing saline bags and catheter tubing on more than one patient during cardiac chemical stress tests over the past five years.

The nurse, identified by police as Qui Lan, 59, resigned last month after she was confronted by hospital officials, who also reported her to the Florida Board of Nursing.

"We do have an investigation. At this point, we're trying to see if we have criminal charges and determine the number of victims," Sgt. Frank Sousa, Fort Lauderdale Police Department spokesman, tells HealthLeaders Media. "There were definitely hospital violations. Criminally there may not be anything."

BGMC has identified 1,851 patients who received cardiac chemical stress tests administered by Lan dating back to September 2004, when she began working there. The hospital wants the patients to get tested for potential exposure to blood borne infections like HIV and hepatitis, although the risk of infection is believed to be very low.

"This is an individual's unacceptable practice that once discovered was immediately corrected," says James G. Thaw, CEO of BGMC. "We at Broward General Medical Center understand that this is alarming and may be frightening, but want to assure our patients we will assist in every way possible."

BGMC says they learned of the matter when someone called the hospital's Compliance Hot Line and reported seeing the nurse use the same saline bag and a portion of tubing more than once. A review of one nurse's practice when administering intravenous fluids during adult cardiac chemical stress tests was conducted and administrators suspended Lan. Hospital officials told local media in Fort Lauderdale that Lan admitted that she knew reusing the saline bags and tubing was a violation of hospital policy.

"But we still don't know why she chose to do this," COO Alice Taylor told the Sun Sentinel. "This is flagrant disregard of basic nursing principles."

John Commins is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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