Rogue Ex-Pharmacist May Have Exposed South Jersey Hospital Patients to HIV and Hepatitis

213 patients of Shore Medical Center in Somers Point have been notified.

Shore Medical Center. Photo | Facebook

Shore Medical Center. Photo | Facebook

A New Jersey hospital has sent out letters to 213 patients to notify them that they may have been exposed to hepatitis B, hepatitis C or HIV during their stay.

The warning came after it was discovered that an employee had allegedly stolen morphine from patients’ vials and replaced it with a saline solution. The fear is that patients may have been exposed to the ex-employee’s blood and thus contacted one of the diseases.

The man in question is Frederick McLeish, 53, a former employee and pharmacist at Shore Medical Center in Somers Point. McLeish was charged with theft, drug tampering and possession on January 21st. His indictment is currently pending in court according to the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s office.

McLeish was the target of an internal inquiry by Shore Medical, that prompted a yearlong criminal investigation by the Atlantic County Prosecutor and the N.J. Department of Law and Public Safety. They allege that between July and September of 2014, McLeish stole the morphine bottles and replaced the solution. McLeish was suspended from work in September of 2014 and was subsequently fired.

The hospital has contacted patients who received IV treatment during the period of June 2013 through September 2014. They are currently offering free testing to those who may have been affected and have set up a call center. In a statement, the hospital said “authorities have commended us on our self-initiated internal investigation and the swift action in this matter.”

However, some patients are not pleased. The Press of Atlantic City reports that former patient Arlene Polmonari, received her letter on February 18th, stating that due to her previous knee replacement and back surgery she may have contracted one of the diseases. She’s unhappy with how long it took for at-risk patients to be notified.

“We are talking a year and a half that people could have been exposed and getting sick from this,” Polmonari told The Press of AC. “How many people could have brought it home to their spouses or pregnant women to their babies or whatever, and they are just now letting people know?”

A spokesperson for the hospital could not say whether anyone has tested positive.

Affected patients and family members can reach the Shore Medical Center Call Center at 609-653-3900.

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