Safety Alert

Potential Hepatitis C Exposure for Some Good Samaritan Emergency Department Patients

MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup is notifying certain patients who were treated in the Emergency Department during a nearly eight-month period in 2017 and 2018 that they should be tested for Hepatitis C. The alert follows the confirmation that two patients who were treated in December likely contracted the disease while in the Emergency Department. 

Good Samaritan and local and state health department officials have conducted a thorough investigation and determined that one of our nurses was removing higher-than-normal amounts of narcotics from our dispensing system and admitted to diverting medications intended for patients. She tested positive for Hepatitis C and had treated both of the patients we know are infected. Hepatitis C is most commonly transmitted by exposure to an infected person’s blood through shared needles. The nurse no longer works for MultiCare. 

Good Samaritan Hospital is notifying about 2,600 patients treated in the Emergency Department between August 4, 2017, and March 23, 2018, who received injections of narcotic, antihistamine or sedatives of the possibility of exposure and recommending free Hepatitis C and other communicable disease testing in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations. This group represents less than 5 percent of the 54,000 patients who were treated in the Emergency Department during this period. 

Good Samaritan patients who do not receive notification letters this week are not at risk. This is an isolated situation and Good Samaritan Hospital is taking appropriate and responsible actions on behalf of patients.

Read the full press release »

Frequently Asked Questions

How was this situation discovered?

Two cases of Hepatitis C were reported to the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department in January and March 2018. The public health investigation into these cases revealed that both patients had received injectable narcotics from the same health care worker at MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital. Blood from the two patients was tested at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and that test showed that the viruses matched genetically, indicating that the source of the infection for both of these patients was the same.

How did this happen?

We believe that a health care worker was taking part of doses of pain medications that were meant to be given to patients.

How did the hospital decide whom to notify?

Since the focus of this investigation is on the time that the particular health care worker in question was working, we are contacting all patients who received injectable narcotic or sedative medications when that individual was on duty.

We are sending written notifications by US Postal mail. Letters were mailed out starting Monday, April 30, and we expect all letters to be received within a week of mailing. If you do not receive this written notification from us, you are not at risk of exposure.

The hepatitis cases were reported in January and March, so why did it take so long to notify patients?

Every new onset case of Hepatitis C is investigated by public health to try to find out how the person was infected. Public health investigators look closely at any health care the case received during the possible exposure period to learn whether inadvertent exposure to body fluids during health care may have been the source. It was not clear that health care was the source for these two cases until the second case was reported in March and the virus was found to match through testing at CDC.

How likely is it to get Hepatitis C if exposed to it in a health care setting?

It is very rare that Hepatitis C is transmitted in health care settings because providers need to follow careful infection control practices to protect patient health and safety.

If I was exposed to Hepatitis C in a health care setting, does my family need to get tested, too?

No, only people who received a notification need to be tested. Transmission between family members is very rare.

Should other members of the public be concerned about exposure from the incident?

No. Only people who received a letter informing them they may have been exposed to Hepatitis C need to be tested because of this incident.

How many people have been tested?

So far, about 1,323 people have been tested.

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MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital Leaders’ Official Announcement