New Jersey Medical Malpractice Lawyers: Hospital Pharmacist Charged With Replacing Morphine with Saline Solution, Exposing Patients To HIV and Hepatitis

Shore Medical Center in Somers Point, New Jersey has sent letters to over 200 former patients, warning them that a former hospital pharmacist who stole morphine may have exposed them to communicable diseases, including HIV and/or hepatitis.

A former pharmacist at the hospital, Frederick P. McLeish, allegedly diverted intravenous morphine, fentanyl and hydroxyzine tablets for his own use over the course of a two month period. He allegedly took the medication from vials intended for use in intravenous solutions, and replaced the drug with saline solution. Details as to how the medicine was removed and how transmission could have occurred have not been released. It is unclear whether McLeish is infected or whether he used contaminated instruments.

The State of New Jersey suspended McLeish’s pharmacy license in 1995 in relation to an issue the pharmacist had with alcoholism. His license was placed on probationary status for four years as a result. Then, in 2002, he was ordered to surrender his license after he was found to have stolen opioid pain medication from a CVS pharmacy where he had been working at the time. McLeish has also been disciplined several times in Pennsylvania for similar infractions. His New Jersey pharmacist’s license was reinstated in 2004.

When Shore Medical Center identified inconsistencies in McLeish’s work back in September 2014, the hospital immediately suspended him. An internal investigation found that he had tampered with medications between July 1 and September 17, 2014. He was subsequently terminated and the Department of Health was notified. McLeish has since surrendered his New Jersey pharmacy license, and is being charged with theft and drug-related offenses.

Patients are currently being tested to determine whether they were infected. The hospital has not released information on whether any patients have been infected.

In hiring licensed practitioners, a hospital has a legal duty to make reasonable inquiries into the applicant’s education, training and licensing. Failure to conduct this type of due diligence can result in a hospital being held liable under a theory of corporate negligence if the staff member’s negligence causes harm to a patient.

Additionally, a hospital might be liable under a theory of negligent hiring if it fails to investigate a licensed practitioner’s credentials, or allows a professional who it knew or should have known was incompetent to treat patients at the hospital.

If you or someone you know has been injured as a result of medical malpractice, the experienced lawyers at Shebell & Shebell can help. We represent clients throughout New Jersey, including Monmouth County, Middlesex County, and Ocean County, including Howell, Freehold, Middletown, Shrewsbury, Wall, Keansburg, Asbury Park, Long Branch, Union Beach and Neptune. For a free consultation, call us at 732-532-2011 or contact us online today.