Nursing home deaths may be linked to blood testing

Officials speak with reporters outside Glen Care of Mt. Olive (WITN photo)

November 11, 2010 9:22:41 AM PST
Officials at a Wayne County nursing home where five patients died of hepatitis B say state investigators have told them that staff members shared blood testing needles amongst multiple patients.

The N.C. Division of Public Health and the Wayne County Health Department are investigating a cluster of hepatitis B cases at Glen Care of Mt. Olive. Eight patients have contracted the disease and five of them have died.

Hepatitis B is a blood-borne disease that is typically transmitted by exposure to blood or body fluids.

In a statement to the media Thursday, George Kornegay - President of Kornegay Healthcare - said state investigators have informed him that medication techs at Glen Care used the same diabetes pen on multiple patients during blood glucose testing.

The nursing home is not admitting or acknowledging they caused the deaths. It says it was told that five employees used the same needle on multiple patients and that the common thread among the victims was diabetes.

State officials have not commented on their investigation to the media and no one has officially linked the needle sticks to the death of patients or their hepatitis infections.

The nursing home says the patients saw many other doctors too during this time.

Kornegay said the facility is now using registered nurses to oversee blood testing to make sure sterile equipment is used.

"We appreciate the support of the community and we grieve with the families of those we lost. This is a trying time for all of us. We continue to support the staff, especially the Med Techs. Our internal investigation is still ongoing. We continue to do everything possible to protect and serve our residents," said Kornegay.

The nursing home also took the unusual step of blocking some TV stations and a radio reporter from attending the Thursday news conference. Officials did not give a reason for the decision. Read more about that at WITN-TV's website.

For more information on hepatitis B symptoms and treatment, go to: http://www.epi.state.nc.us/epi/gcdc/hbv.html

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