In August 2010, a 3½-year internal investigation by Mayo Clinic culminated in the firing and subsequent arrest of an employee for diverting injectable fentanyl for personal use. The employee’s actions were linked to the transmission of hepatitis C to three patients. In one of these patients, we believe, the hepatitis contributed to the patient’s death. We continue to extend our deepest condolences to family and friends.
To ensure the safety of all patients and confirm that these incidents were isolated, Mayo Clinic quickly identified all patients who could have been placed at risk by the former employee’s actions and urged them to be tested for hepatitis C.
Since August 2010, Mayo Clinic tested approximately 3,500 patients to determine whether the actions of a former employee exposed them to the virus that causes hepatitis C. This testing is now complete and has identified two more patients who tested positive for hepatitis C that may be related to the former employee’s actions. These patients are receiving appropriate follow-up care.
During the investigation, Mayo Clinic has focused on meeting the needs of the patients who may have been affected by the former employee’s actions. Staff notified patients of test results, answered questions and worked diligently with the Florida Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mayo Clinic has provided free testing, care for affected patients, counseling and a 24-hour information line. The system in place to control narcotics has been strengthened to create even tighter controls, such as putting in place additional narcotic safety and security measures and incorporating procedural changes. Mayo Clinic also expanded its health care drug-screening panel for potential new hires.
“We remain steadfast in our commitment to provide safe and effective care to all of our patients,” says Dr. William C. Rupp, chief executive officer of Mayo Clinic in Florida. “Our persistent, 3 1/2 year investigation helped uncover the source of the infections. We appreciate the support and understanding of our patients throughout this process.”
Mayo Clinic continues to cooperate with law enforcement and defers to them regarding any questions on legal aspects of the criminal case.
Mayo Clinic continues to work diligently to address the safety of all patients who were potentially put at risk by one person’s unauthorized activity.
In the last two weeks, Mayo Clinic’s efforts have focused on meeting the needs of patients who received letters asking them to undergo testing, notifying patients of testing results, answering questions and working diligently on this complex process with the Florida Department of Health (DOH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
As of Sunday, Sept. 19, labs have been drawn or scheduled for approximately 2,400 patients. Positive results will be reported to the DOH and CDC. Mayo Clinic will not publicly disclose test results. Patients who receive a positive result will be assigned a care coordinator to answer questions, coordinate appointments and care at Mayo Clinic or ensure a smooth transition of information to the patient’s primary care physician. Patients who receive a negative result are provided a personal contact to answer questions.
The safety and proper care of patients remains Mayo Clinic’s most important concern. Our continuing review of patient records has been augmented by independent data assurance firms to help make certain we have identified every patient that may be at risk. Beginning today, 2,100 additional patients are being sent letters advising them to undergo hepatitis C testing. The additional patients are primarily those who received care in Interventional Radiology at St. Luke’s Hospital from 2004 to April 11, 2008, when Mayo Clinic owned St. Luke’s Hospital.
“We want to ensure that every patient who might be at risk is tested,” says Dr. William C. Rupp, chief executive officer of Mayo Clinic in Florida. “Thanks to the diligent work of our team of data specialists, along with the outside data assurance firms and consultation with the Florida Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we are confident that we are at a point where we’ve identified the vast majority of patients who were put at risk by this former employee.”
Patients who receive letters and have questions about the testing can call the toll-free hotline, staffed by Mayo Clinic nurses, at 877-956-1768. It is available every day from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. EDT.
“Mayo Clinic will do whatever is necessary to support the needs of its patients,” says Dr. Rupp. “Patient safety is central to the trust the organization shares with its patients. Mayo Clinic is working to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. The multiple systems in place to control narcotics are being strengthened further to create even tighter control.”
Further information about hepatitis C is available on the Mayo Clinic website at http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hepatitis-c/DS00097 or the CDC website at http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/C/
Mayo will continue to provide regular updates as information becomes available.
Florida Department of Health: Rob Hayes or Eulinda Smith at 850 -245-4111
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Joe Quimby at 404-639-3286
Duval County Health Department: Robert Harmon, M.D., 904-630-3220
Journalists: The following video clips are available for download and use in your stories.
Broll of Mayo Clinic performing a typical blood draw.
Broll of the Hepatitis C Hotline Call Center.
Below is a link to an edited youtube video with Dr. Rrupp that you can embed with your stories.
Last week, information was shared about a Mayo Clinic employee who admitted to stealing pain medication intended for patients and put them at risk. His admission unlocked a key to the puzzle we had been piecing together with the Florida Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more than three years. A comprehensive criminal investigation of the former employee’s actions is underway. Mayo is cooperating completely.
Today Mayo Clinic leaders briefed reporters on what is being done on behalf of patients, given the actions of this individual. Letters are being sent to more than three thousand patients who may have had contact with the individual, informing them of their potential risk, and steps to be tested for infection. A timeline of the investigation to this point was also released. Click here to view it.
Florida Department of Health
Robyn Kay, M.P.H., Regional Epidemiologist
Rob Hayes, Communications Director
Eulinda Smith, Deputy Communications Director
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Joe Quimby, Press Officer
Rosa Herrera, Press Officer
Duval County Health Department
Robert Harmon, M.D.
Below is video from this afternoon’s news briefing.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Mayo Clinic is working closely with the Florida Department of Health and in consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine which patients should undergo follow-up testing after the Clinic last week discovered that a now, former employee put patients at risk for exposure to hepatitis C.
Mayo Clinic terminated the radiology technologist’s employment after he admitted stealing injectable fentanyl for personal use. His admission came after he was questioned about why his strain of hepatitis C infection was found to be similar to the strain of hepatitis C in three patients who underwent interventional radiology procedures over the last four years. For more details, see Mayo Clinic’s news blog at http://newsblog.mayoclinic.org/2010/08/24/employee-terminated-after-confessing-to-drug-diversion/.
“We find it heartbreaking that the actions of this single individual may have impacted some of our patients,” said William C. Rupp, M.D., CEO of Mayo Clinic in Florida. “We are devoted to meeting patient needs as we respond to this situation. We pride ourselves on offering safe, high-quality patient care. Patients have my firm commitment and the commitment of our entire team that Mayo Clinic will do everything possible to maintain the trust they have placed in us.”
The number of patients who might be affected is still being determined. Mayo Clinic will send letters to these patients and will make hepatitis C testing available at no charge to them. Specific details about testing options for patients who are at risk will be released later this week.
Patients who have questions or may be concerned that they may be at risk of infection can call the toll-free hotline at 877-956-1768 or 904-956-1768. Mayo Clinic nurses staffing the hotline can answer questions or concerns from patients about hepatitis C. Approximately 725 people have called the hotline since it was established last Wednesday.
Further information about hepatitis C is available on the Mayo Clinic website at http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hepatitis-c/DS00097 or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/HCV/PDFs/HepCGeneralFactSheet.pdf.
Mayo Clinic will provide additional information about this situation as it becomes available.