Fumes from another patient close Calif. emergency room

March 01, 1994|By Los Angeles Times

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -- A second bizarre emergency room incident in which a fuming body felled medical personnel during the Saturday evening rush was probably unrelated to the first case, authorities said yesterday.

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

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

"She ingested it in her house," he said.

"We can't tell if it was intentional or otherwise."

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

A handful of local and state agencies are investigating the two incidents, but authorities cautioned it is unlikely that any definitive answers about the Riverside case will be forthcoming until the results of toxicology tests conducted on Ms. Ramirez become available later this month.

The condition of the Bakersfield patient has been upgraded to serious, but she is still on a ventilator in intensive care and unable to tell doctors what happened to her, said spokesman Rick Riley.

Like Ms. Ramirez she was brought to the hospital suffering from cardiac arrest, but Mercy Hospital personnel treated the case as a poisoning and began administering an antidote, Mr. Riley added.

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