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Nurse accused in Asante wrongful death suit denied wrongdoing

Before the filing of an $11.5 million suit alleging that fentanyl theft led to a fatal infection, a Medford RN said she did nothing wrong and was cooperating: ‘The truth will, I’m sure, come out.’
A picture of Rogue Regional Medical Center in 2007. At the time it was known as Rogue Valley Medical Center. | BY NICKNELSON/ENGLISH WIKIPEDIA VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS.
February 27, 2024

This story has been updated with additional comment from Medford police. 

An $11.5 million lawsuit accuses a Medford nurse of swapping fentanyl for tap water and contributing to a patient’s death at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center in Medford. But the nurse named in the suit told The Lund Report she did nothing wrong.

The lawsuit, which accuses the hospital of negligence, alleged Dani Marie Schofield substituted tap water for the powerful synthetic opioid that was slated to be administered to a patient at the Medford hospital. 

In an interview with The Lund Report last month, Schofield denied wrongdoing, saying “The truth will, I’m sure, come out.”

In late December, reports surfaced that the Medford hospital had notified former patients or their family members that the hospital believed their infections were caused by an employee who’d been diverting drugs. Reportedly, some of the infections involved were fatal. 

Medford police confirmed an investigation. But like hospital officials, they have released few details. No official source has confirmed the number of patient deaths that may have been involved. 

Police spokesman Lt. Geoff Kirkpatrick told The Lund Report Tuesday that the department was aware of the lawsuit and investigators had interviewed “hundreds of people.” In a statement issued Wednesday, police declined to confirm the names of anyone under investigation and said that no one has been charged with a crime. 

"We are meticulously reviewing thousands of documents, including medical records, which require thorough examination and consultation with experts in the medical field," reads the statement. 

No public indictment or arrest records have surfaced. It’s unclear how many employees came under suspicion of diverting drugs at the hospital, though the lawsuit claims the hospital believed one employee was involved. No evidence has surfaced publicly linking any deaths to the alleged drug diversion.

The suit, which was filed in Jackson County Circuit Court on Monday, links Schofield to the death of one patient. It was filed on behalf of the estate of Horace Earl Wilson, a 65-year-old who was admitted to Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center in 2022 after falling off a ladder. 

At the hospital he became infected and died, the suit said. The suit alleged that Schofield, a registered nurse at the hospital, caused the infection by replacing a quarter liter of Wilson’s fentanyl with tap water. The Oregonian/OregonLive first reported on the suit.  

The hospital did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Lund Report Tuesday morning. 

A spokesperson for the Oregon State Nursing Board on Tuesday said it cannot confirm any pending investigations. Last month, the agency provided The Lund Report with an “interim order of consent” naming Schofield, in response to a Jan. 4 request under Oregon Public Records Law. The record showed that in effect, on Nov. 22 she voluntarily consented to withdraw her license to practice nursing pending an unspecified investigation.

When contacted last month and told that The Lund Report wanted to talk to her about Asante, Schofield asked how the reporter got her number and said  “I’ve hired an attorney to protect my name from all this slander.” 

In the interview, which took place Jan. 5, she said she had not been charged with anything, and had been “cooperative.”

Asked about the nursing board document she said, “I did not relinquish my license. It was an investigation (for) which I have plenty of information to back it up as to why I quit.”

Did she mean her information showed the allegations under investigation were false, the reporter asked, and that she did the right thing?

“Correct,” she replied. “At this time I can’t speak any further to protect myself, just to be honest … All I ask is that you speak the truth.”

She referred The Lund Report to her attorney, Shawn Kollie of Medford, who declined to comment. He again declined to comment on Feb. 27. Schofield did not respond to follow up requests for information.

Because Schofield was not practicing, had not been arrested, was not named in a lawsuit and was not facing discipline from the nursing board at that time, The Lund Report did not report on her statements at the time.

Suit details patient’s decline

According to the lawsuit, Wilson sought treatment at Asante Rogue in January 2022. A CT scan found broken ribs and a lacerated, bleeding spleen.

After surgery, Wilson appeared to be improving and staff removed a breathing tube while continuing to administer medications directly into his central vein to prevent his blood pressure from dropping. 

However, his condition deteriorated within days and required three additional operations. He was again intubated on his third. 

Blood tests eventually showed Wilson had a bacterial infection called staphylococcus epidermidis, which had “become essentially impossible to eradicate,” the lawsuit states.

Wilson’s condition declined rapidly to organ failure and brain dysfunction. 

“Eventually, Horace Wilson was weaned from sedation and recovered enough mental function to communicate to the ICU staff that he no longer wished to live this way,” reads the lawsuit. He died on Feb. 25, 2022 while at the hospital, according to the lawsuit. 

The lawsuit states that Schofield had been ordered to administer fentanyl to Wilson through “hang bags” that pumped the painkiller into his veins at a prescribed rate. 

Schofield charted that she administered fentanyl to Wilson on several dates starting on January 29, according to the lawsuit. However, the suit alleged that she replaced it with non-sterile tap water that introduced the bacterium into his bloodstream. 

The suit claimed Asante should have known that employee drug diversion was taking place.

You can reach Jake Thomas at [email protected] or via at @jakethomas2009.


Submitted by Kevin Gee on Wed, 02/28/2024 - 19:09 Permalink

Not sure why a Civil complaint was filed with Jackson County Circuit Court, not a better-fitting Criminal charge with a commensurate number of counts?