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Pasco County inmates exposed to HIV after jail nurse re-used insulin vials

Posted at 5:54 PM, Jan 19, 2022

LAND O' LAKES, Fla. — Five current inmates at the Land O’Lakes Detention Center have filed a class-action lawsuit against Wellpath, LLC, a private correctional healthcare contractor for the jail.

“Dirty needles, dirty vials every single day. It’s unbelievable and it’s truly a public health crisis,” said Kevin Conway, partner, Peiffer Wolf Carr Kane Conway & Wise.

According to the lawsuit, a Wellpath nurse had allegedly been placing needles she already used to inject inmates, back into vials of insulin that would then be given to other inmates.

“Earlier this month an inmate witnessed a nurse carry out this dangerous procedure on an inmate with HIV,” said Ashlie Case Sletvold, Lead counsel for the plaintiffs.

The nurse admitted double-dipping in the insulin vials over the course of her one year employment. The jail is estimated to have at least 40 inmates with diabetes.

Attorneys said Wellpath has administered HIV tests and medications to some of the inmates.

“None of them were told why some of them were getting blood tests, why some of them were getting HIV tests administered to them. So, none of them even had an opportunity to know to get tested on their own, to let their family members know, if they're out,” Conway said.

Pasco Sheriff’s Office contracted with Wellpath in 2019. In an emailed statement they said:

"The Pasco Sheriff’s Office is aware of this complaint and immediately began working with Wellpath, the third-party medical provider for detention center inmates, to investigate this matter. Wellpath employees, including the nurse involved in the alleged incident, are not employees of the Pasco Sheriff’s Office. We are unable to provide specific details on this matter as it involves confidential medical information and pending litigation. It is our understanding that Wellpath took immediate corrective action upon being notified of a possible issue with insulin dispensation, and CDC exposure guidelines were followed as safety precautions. At this point, no adverse reactions have been reported by any affected individuals. We are taking the reported complaint very seriously and will continue to work with Wellpath regarding investigation of this matter and steps to ensure a situation like this does not happen in the future.”

The lawsuit is asking Wellpath to pay for inmates medical monitoring. ABC Action News reached out to WellPath and they had this to say after our report aired:

“We were recently made aware of a complaint regarding a nurse practicing inconsistent with the standard of care. We take all such allegations seriously and timely investigated.  The nurse was terminated, and we have satisfied all State of Florida reporting requirements. All appropriate patient follow up was provided including testing and use of prophylactic medications. We are not aware of any clinical patient complications.”

Attorneys are warning anyone who received insulin injections at the Land O’Lakes Detention Center in the last year, to get tested for HIV and other bloodborne illnesses.

“Diabetics who rely on insulin to survive shouldn’t have to fear that the medicine they take to save their lives might be ending it,” Sletvold said.