Ballad Health issues statement after ‘unacceptable practice’ at JCMC poses possible risk to as many as 100 patients

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Ballad Health has released a statement after patients received letters informing them of a “medication incident” that might have occurred during a hospital visit.

A picture of a letter from Ballad Health sent to a patient was shared with News Channel 11.

The letter states it was sent to notify the recipient that a possible incident that could have happened at the Johnson City Medical Center on May 3, 2021.

“While you were admitted, an unacceptable practice and violation of our policy – by what appears to be a single nurse – might have occurred, which affected your medication,” the letter states. “As a result, we believe you have the right to be aware of the possible ramifications and options.”

The letter, signed by Jamie Swift, Ballad Health’s Chief Infection Prevention Officer, states there is no indication of the violation should result in any unintended outcome for the patient and the risk is believed to be “extremely low.”

The recipient of the letter was encouraged to be tested for the following diseases as a precautionary measure:

  • Hepatitis C
  • Hepatitis B
  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

“All of us at Johnson City Medical Center understand this information is alarming,” the letter reads. “The medical center has taken immediate action to notify law enforcement and healthcare regulatory agencies of the deviation from our policy by this individual, we have removed the individual and we continue to investigate the incident.”

Swift also wrote that the cost of the tests recommended would be paid for, and arrangements for the testing were made by Ballad Health.

“We realize that you come to Johnson City Medical Center to get better,” the letter states. “This event is intolerable to us and contrary to our very mission. We want to work with you to resolve the situation and ensure your safety and well-being.”

In a statement dated July 20, Ballad Health stated that hospital leaders have been addressing the issue.

Johnson City Medical Center leadership is aware of and has addressed a violation of its policies and procedures, and possibly the law, by an individual who improperly handled controlled substances. This violation occurred during a specific period of time from May-July and on a single patient care unit.

Ballad Health

According to the statement, the incident was first brought to light after a “longtime nurse” witnessed “something unusual and reported it immediately to superiors.” An investigation was launched, and the person responsible was removed.

Ballad Health said in the statement that the Tennessee Department of Health, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration and the District Attorney’s office were all notified of the incident.

“It is possible that as many as 100 patients seen during this time period were affected by the actions of this individual,” the statement reads. “These patients have the right to know their care might have been affected by the violation of policies intended to protect patients, and Johnson City Medical Center has commenced contacting these patients for notification and to offer assistance.”

The statement identified the person responsible as a nurse “who was associated with a contract nursing agency.” The nurse reportedly responsible is now no longer permitted to work at any Ballad Health facilities.

Ballad Health officials said in the statement that the company and JCMC will continue to cooperate with law enforcement and involved agencies as the investigation continues.

“Johnson City Medical Center is proud of the nurse who saw something and said something,” the release states. “The Ballad Health compliance program is established to ensure team members feel comfortable reporting when they see a violation of policy or anything that can impact patient safety. We are grateful for the example this nurse set. She is a hero, and we celebrate her professional act.”

No further information regarding the May incident has been released.

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