1. Archive

2nd case of patient fumes tied to poison

Published Oct. 6, 2005

A second bizarre emergency room incident in which fumes from a patient made medical personnel sick was probably unrelated to the first case, authorities said Monday.

Nineteen emergency room workers at Mercy Hospital here had to be decontaminated Saturday night after ammonialike fumes from an unidentified 44-year-old woman caused minor dizziness, headaches and difficulties breathing.

The emergency room was closed and scrubbed down.

Steve McCalley, head of Kern County's environmental health department, said late Monday that the victim ingested a common household pesticide called Dursban, which is sold over the counter and used to kill ants and other insects.

The incident mirrored a similar one that occurred almost exactly a week earlier at Riverside (Calif.) General Hospital in which six emergency-room personnel became ill while treating 31-year-old cancer patient Gloria Ramirez, who died. A doctor and a nurse in Riverside remain in the hospital, but none of the workers at Mercy Hospital were seriously injured and all finished their shifts.

The condition of the Bakersfield patient is serious, and she is still on a ventilator in intensive care and unable to tell doctors what happened to her, said spokesman Rick Riley. Like Ramirez she was brought to the hospital suffering from cardiac arrest, but Mercy Hospital personnel treated their case as a poisoning and began administering an antidote, Riley added.

The woman's husband brought a cup of a mysterious liquid, found on the woman's dryer, into the hospital, suggesting it might be the source of the poisoning. It was found to contain Dursban.