A Washington emergency room nurse is accused of stealing narcotics and infecting two hospital patients with hepatitis C using the same needles that she used to inject herself.
Cora Weberg, 31, who has since been released from the Pierce County Jail, was booked early Friday on suspicion of two counts of second-degree assault, the Puyallup Police Department said in a post on its Facebook page.
She has not been formally charged, and her mother, Eunice, told the media at a news conference Friday that her daughter “wouldn’t hurt a bug.”
Weberg’s attorney, Bryan Hershman, said Weberg denies the allegations, reports The News-Tribune.
The arrest follows an alert April 30 by officials at Puyallup’s MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital, who held a news conference to say that 2,600 patients who may have interacted with the nurse should seek testing. Although they did not identify the nurse by name at the time, they said the nurse was “surprised” to find that she had the disease herself, and admitted to investigators that she had “diverted” injectable narcotics meant for patient use.
“The nurse’s actions violated our organization’s values,” the hospital’s chief operating officer, Chris Bredeson, told reporters. “We sincerely apologize to the two patients infected and the patients who need to be screened.”
Hospital officials said their investigation began a month ago but they withheld their public alert until they could confirm the suspected link between the nurse and the emergency room patients.
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The larger number of those they urged to be tested represent the number of patients who passed through the hospital’s emergency room while the nurse worked in that unit from Aug. 4, 2017, to March 23, the officials said.
Weberg “intentionally contaminated medicine or another substance with her own blood; she then administered the medicine or other substance intravenously; Cora Weberg knew or reasonably should have known that her blood was likely to contain one or more blood-borne pathogens; and Cora Weberg’s blood did, in fact, contain and transmit Hepatitis C virus,” a probable cause statement obtained by PEOPLE alleges.
“This is a terrible allegation,” Hershman, her defense attorney, told the newspaper. “I hope we all stand back and take a deep breath and really look at what the evidence says. To date, I haven’t seen what evidence they have that would prove she intentionally infected anybody.”
He said Weberg did not use any needles on patients that she had used on herself.
Weberg said she was departing the country for a long-planned trip to Guam when she was arrested by Puyallup police at the U.S.-Canada border.
“Taking her and putting her in jail without having evidence or a cause, it’s deplorable,” her mother Eunice Weberg said at the Friday news conference.
“She doesn’t think she has it,” Eunice, a registered nurse herself, said of allegations that her daughter has hepatitis C. “That’s the last thing that was on her mind, that she would have something like this.”
“I would talk to her if I had something contagious. She would do the same to me,” she said. “She’s not an IV drug user. She doesn’t have sex for money. She’s in a monogamous relationship. She’s smart, she’s sympathetic. She’s got a heart of gold. She wouldn’t hurt a bug. I raised her. She’s a lot like me. You tell the truth. You tell the truth if it hurts.”
Weberg has since resigned her position at Good Samaritan Hospital and is not practicing anywhere else, TV station KIRO reports.
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