Asante articles reveal history of issues with waterborne bacteria

UPDATE: Asante appears to have put the articles in question back online.

MEDFORD, Ore. – We’re continuing to follow the story involving a police investigation into what sources tell NBC5 News, includes multiple patient deaths at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center and what we know about Asante’s recent history with hospital-acquired infections.

We have learned that Asante has investigated a potential link between hospital acquired infections and water quality issues.

Last year, the former Asante Vice President of Quality and Patient Safety, wrote articles published on the hospital’s website about hospital acquired infections.

We have learned of a 2023 article about ICU infections, believed to be caused by waterborne bacteria.

To recap what we know, multiple Asante sources, who do not want to be named, tell us as many as eight or nine Rogue Regional Medical Center Patients died as a result of drug diversion.

They say a nurse in the intensive care unit replaced fentanyl medication used for pain, with tap water.

Our sources tell us the tap water, which is not sterile led to multiple infection of pseudomonas, which is a waterborne bacterium.

A 2023 article by the former Asante Vice President of Quality and Patient Safety, Holly Nickerson, shows how Asante was no stranger to hospital acquired infections.

It said that the hospital was seeing central line infections from leaving IV’s in too long.

Doctor Robin Miller is the host of our Docs on Call segment and said,

“Obviously, they were concerned about infections, hospital acquired infections. Now, IV infections are usually staph aureus not pseudomonas. However, I think they had an inkling then.”

She said that leaving an IV in too long wouldn’t necessarily result in pseudomonas.

However, there was another earlier article by Nickerson as well, that says in December of 2022, several central line infections in Asante critical care units, were linked to waterborne bacteria.

Dr. Miller said,

“It kind of doesn’t make sense, because I don’t know how water would get into a central line to cause a waterborne illness, unless it was injected.”

Doctor Miller still doesn’t understand why tap water was used, when hospitals have sterile options.

She said,

“The least harmful of those would be the sterile saline and it is readily available. So, I don’t understand unless whoever was doing it was impaired and not thinking.”

As Dr. Miller told us, switching out a patient’s medication for personal misuse, or drug diversion, isn’t a situation unique to the Rogue Valley.

She says that 10% of healthcare workers divert drugs, according to several peer reviewed journals.

Dr. Miller said,

“Many people have questioned the 10% figure, but honestly you have to realize that medical professionals are people and to think they don’t have drug issues is naive and dangerous.”

If you want to refer to the studies about national drug diversion rates, you can visit these sources.

I also spoke with former Asante Vice President of Quality and Patient Safety, Holly Nickerson.

While she couldn’t comment on the current investigation, she did tell me she no longer works for the hospital system.

And the articles appeared on Asante’s website but have appeared to have been removed from public general access.

If you have any information, or have been impacted by this, please reach out to us at [email protected]

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Maximus Osburn is a reporter for NBC5 News. He studied at California State University-Northridge, graduating with a degree in Broadcasting. Maximus is an avid martial arts enthusiast and combat sports fan. He even traveled to Thailand to train with martial arts experts. Maximus loves movies, nature, and doing things outside his comfort zone, like swimming in sub-freezing lakes in the winter.
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