This morning the Boston Public Health Commission said that as part of an ongoing investigation by Boston EMS into misconduct by one of its paramedics, the department has notified 57 patients that they potentially received compromised medications during EMS treatment.
The 57 patients got doses of controlled medications that may have been tampered with by the suspected employee during a six week period in the summer of 2011, a spokesman for the commission said.
All 57 patients have been offered free screening for infectious diseases, and the comission is running an "incident hotline" staffed by trained clinicians to answer questions and provide information to those people.
However, the department is not aware of the suspect having or transmitting an infectious disease to any patients.
The paramedic in question was fired after the alleged misconduct was discovered, and according to the spokesman, EMS can't give details on he employee’s activities because of an ongoing criminal investigation.
The health comission decided to inform them out of an "abundance of caution" for their safety, the spokesman said, adding that Boston EMS could not identify the small number of patients that may have been exposed to compromised medications until the state lab completed its testing of medication vials at the end of July 2012.
Those tests results let EMS identify 64 patients that potentially received compromised medications., but seven of them died soon after transport for "reasons related to their initial catastrophic injury or medical event," the spokesman said.
It's unclear at this time how many of the 64 patients actually received compromised medications, but the group represents a very small subset, approximately 0.4%, of the 16,968 patients encountered by EMS during the time period in question.
According to the health commission, paramedics are required to have access to a limited number of controlled medications in order to provide vital pre-hospital care to patients. Boston EMS administers fentanyl, lorazepam, and midazolam for treatment in certain situations. The department previously carried morphine, but has not since last November. The patients that were notified were treated with one of those four controlled medications.
The spokesman said EMS is cooperating fully with authorities in the criminal investigation against the suspected employee, and that people who have questions about Boston EMS services should contact the central office at 617-343-2367.