Federal gov’t data shows Asante RRMC infection/sepsis issues

MEDFORD, Ore.- Asante employees at Rogue Regional Medical Center attended employee town halls on the health system’s Medford campus on January 4th. Asante just announced the town halls on January 1st on their website. It said the employee town halls, which include two on January 4th and two more in a couple of weeks, are to cover topics including culture of safety, primary care access and a financial update.

What it didn’t spend much time on was the ongoing police investigation at RRMC. Multiple Asante sources, who did not want to be named, told NBC5 News as many as 8 or 9 Rogue Regional Medical Center patients died as a result of drug diversion. NBC5 News sources say a nurse in the intensive care unit replaced fentanyl medication, used for pain, with tap water. They say the tap water, which is not sterile, led to multiple infections.

Though Medford police began investigating the situation in early December, no one has been arrested yet.

A source inside the Smullin Education Center at RRMC on January 4th said at one of the town halls, an employee asked Asante leadership about the investigation and why they were hearing about it from other people and not Asante itself. Employees were told that the health system was dealing with it legally, end of story.

NBC5 News reported on January 2nd that Asante’s own website has news articles about infection-related issues at RRMC. It’s since taken the articles down. A 2023 article written by the former Asante Vice President of Quality and Patient Safety Holly Nickerson said the hospital was seeing central line infections from leaving IVs in too long. Another article by Nickerson, from December of 2022, said several central line infections in Asante Critical Care Units were linked to water borne bacteria.

NBC5 News is learning federal government data also shows Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center is faring worse than the national averages in both sepsis care and bloodstream infections in ICU’s. Sepsis occurs when your body has an extreme response to an infection, damaging organs. It can be life threatening.

Data from Medicare.gov shows that 24% of 173 RRMC patients received appropriate care for severe sepsis and/or septic shock. That’s less than half of the national and Oregon averages of 59% and 55% respectively, according to Medicare. The data is based on a sample of cases and patients.

Healthcare-associated infections, or HAI’s, are infections that people get while they’re getting treatment for another condition in a healthcare setting. RRMC’s data on Medicare.gov shows central line-associated bloodstream infections in ICU’s and select wards are worse than the national benchmark. In this case lower numbers are better. The national benchmark is 1.0. Asante’s number is 1.778. The host of NBC5’s long-running ‘Docs on Call’ program, Dr. Robin Miller, says the data has to make one wonder, given the nature of the current police investigation.

You wonder if they were asking questions about hospital acquired infections at the time,” she said, “and that’s all you can wonder.”

NBC5 News reached out to Asante on January 3rd, asking multiple questions related to this NBC5 News investigation and about infections inside RRMC. Specifically, NBC5 News wants to know what Asante’s historical infection rate is, how frequently that is looked at, and what protocols are in place to prevent infection?

Asante declined to comment.

Stay with NBC5 News for updates on this ongoing investigation.

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NBC5 News Reporter Lauren Pretto grew up in Livermore, California and attended University of California, Santa Cruz, graduating with a double major in Film/Digital Media and Literature with a concentration in Creative Writing. Lauren is a lover of books, especially Agatha Christie and Gothic novels. When her nose isn't buried in a book, she knits, bakes, and writes.
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