Hospital worker swapped patients’ opiates for saline

A former hospital worker who swapped anaesthetic drugs, meant for patients, with saline, while they were about to have surgery, has been barred from providing any health service.

A tribunal found former Mater Hospital employee Evan Leslie Kajewski, who stole the drugs for his own use, posed a serious risk to people.

Kajewski, an unregistered anaesthetic assistant, took a drug which was about to be given to a patient who had to have emergency surgery to remove a lodged chicken bone.

The Tribunal heard he substituted a syringe containing alfentanil, an opioid anaesthetic drug which was on a trolley in the operating theatre, with a syringe he had prepared with saline and fixed with an alfentanil label.

When the registrar anaesthetist administered what he thought was alfentanil to the female patient, 30, she began to experience extreme tachycardia and hypertension.

A consultant then gave the patient a fresh dose of fentanyl and she recovered and the surgery went ahead, the Queensland Cvil and Administrative Tribunal heard.

In a second incident in 2017, the Tribunal heard Kajewski stole fentanyl meant for a young person with cerebral palsy who had kidney stones and who was about to have surgery.

Although Kajewski was not assigned to assist in the operating theatre and was told he was not needed after he entered the room, he stayed near the drug trolley.

Former Mater Hospital worker Evan Leslie Kajewski leaving Brisbane’s Police watch-house after being granted bail in 2017. A court has now barred Mr has been barred Kajewski from providing any health service. Picture: Glenn Hunt/AAP
Former Mater Hospital worker Evan Leslie Kajewski leaving Brisbane’s Police watch-house after being granted bail in 2017. A court has now barred Mr has been barred Kajewski from providing any health service. Picture: Glenn Hunt/AAP

He then swapped a fentanyl syringe with a syringe containing saline, the tribunal heard.

After a nurse noticed a fentanyl syringe had been moved, a consultant discarded the syringe labelled fentanyl and requested a fresh dose for the patient.

Two months later, Kajewski again substituted a syringe containing fentanyl, to be used during lengthy orthopaedic surgery for a 73-year-old man, for a syringe he had filled with saline.

An anaesthetist noticed and reported it to the hospital's administration.

In 2018, Kajewski pleaded guilty to stealing as a servant and possession of a dangerous drug and was sentenced to six months' jail with parole after two months.

A tribunal member said Kajewski was prepared to put his own interests before those of vulnerable patients and "behave in a way that is significantly dangerous".

The member said Kajewski did not appear to have developed insight into the seriousness of his behaviour since he had been jailed.

Kajewski still disputed that he posed a serious risk to people.

The member said the deliberate switching of syringes and drugs at the start of or during surgery was highly dangerous.

"His breach of trust on all occasions was calculated and premeditated," the member said.

On October 14, Kajewski was permanently prohibited from providing any health service.

Originally published as Hospital worker swapped patients' opiates for saline


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