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Helena hospital says staff were "harassed and threatened" over COVID-19 patient treatment

St. Peter's Health
Posted at 3:06 PM, Oct 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-19 18:22:03-04

HELENA — St. Peter’s Health nurses and doctors say they were “harassed and threatened” last week by Montana public officials demanding the hospital give a patient with COVID-19 Ivermectin, a drug not authorized for use by the Federal Drug Administration for treating COVID-19.

“St. Peter’s Health works closely with public officials and regulatory agencies, and we occasionally receive inquiries about patient care and patient rights. Last week, several of our providers and care team members who are working tirelessly at the bedside were harassed and threatened by three public officials,” said St. Peter’s Health in a statement to MTN.

“These officials have no medical training or experience, yet they were insisting our providers give treatments for COVID-19 that are not authorized, clinically approved, or within the guidelines established by the FDA and the CDC. In addition, they threatened to use their position of power to force our doctors and nurses to provide this care. These conversations were deeply troubling to our physicians and staff because they were threatened and their clinical judgment was called into question by these individuals.”

The patient's family also alleged that St. Peter’s Health was not allowing them to contact the patient.

St. Peter's Health did not name the public officials in their statement to MTN News. However, the office of Attorney General Austin Knudsen confirmed he had reached out to the hospital and a Montana Highway Patrol trooper was sent to investigate the situation. The office denied anyone was threatened or had their clinical judgment threatened through Montana Department of Justice actions.

Attorney General Austin Knudsen

“The family asked for our assistance and a trooper was dispatched to speak with the family at the hospital,” said The Montana Attorney General's office said in a statement to MTN News.“Following that conversation, Attorney General Knudsen spoke with hospital executives and received assurances that they would cease preventing communication between the patient and her family and deliver the legal documents she needed.”

The hospital said it reviewed the treatment and found their teams provided care that met clinical best practices, hospital policy and patient rights. The hospital reiterated that will continue to follow clinical protocols developed by medical experts.

The FDA says currently available data do not show ivermectin is effective against COVID-19. Ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19 is currently being clinically studied by Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso and other centers for the National Institute of Health, no data has been released as to any potential benefits.

Additionally, the patient in question had requested to be treated with hydroxychloroquine. The FDA determined that chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are unlikely to be effective in treating COVID-19.

“Despite occasional requests by patients or family members to use alternative therapies or medications like Ivermectin that are not authorized or clinically approved to treat COVID-19, St. Peter's Health will continue to follow clinical protocols that have been developed by medical experts and are consistent with FDA and CDC guidelines and recommendations. Any efforts to exert pressure on our providers, including by public officials, will not result in deviation from widely accepted clinical treatment protocols or our hospital policy. Furthermore, harassing our care teams places an additional burden of stress on these individuals, diverting their time and focus away from caring for these critically ill patients,” said St. Peter’s in their statement.

On Tuesday, AP News reported that Republican state Sen. Theresa Manzella of Hamilton had also reached out to the hospital, but did not speak to anyone in person, to inquire why the patient’s “constitutional right to dignity, self-determination and right to try were not being considered.”

The Right to Try Act was passed by the Montana State Legislature in 2015 and signed into law by former Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock. The law allows people to seek experimental treatments for terminal illnesses.

St. Peter’s Health Full Statement:

St. Peter’s Health works closely with public officials and regulatory agencies, and we occasionally receive inquiries about patient care and patient rights. Last week, several of our providers and care team members who are working tirelessly at the bedside were harassed and threatened by three public officials. These officials have no medical training or experience, yet they were insisting our providers give treatments for COVID-19 that are not authorized, clinically approved, or within the guidelines established by the FDA and the CDC. In addition, they threatened to use their position of power to force our doctors and nurses to provide this care. These conversations were deeply troubling to our physicians and staff because they were threatened and their clinical judgment was called into question by these individuals.

We have reviewed all medical and legal records related to these incidents, and we have verified that our teams are providing care in accordance with clinical best practice, hospital policy and patient rights. Any allegations or assertions otherwise are unfounded. St. Peter’s is focused on providing the very best care for our patients. We stand behind our care teams, who are doing an exceptional job during these extenuating and incredibly challenging circumstances.

Despite occasional requests by patients or family members to use alternative therapies or medications like Ivermectin that are not authorized or clinically approved to treat COVID-19, St. Peter's Health will continue to follow clinical protocols that have been developed by medical experts and are consistent with FDA and CDC guidelines and recommendations. Any efforts to exert pressure on our providers, including by public officials, will not result in deviation from widely accepted clinical treatment protocols or our hospital policy. Furthermore, harassing our care teams places an additional burden of stress on these individuals, diverting their time and focus away from caring for these critically ill patients.

St. Peter's Health

Office of Attorney General Austin Knudsen full statement:

The Attorney General’s Office received a report from a family that said St. Peter’s Hospital was violating their relative’s rights by refusing to allow her to receive prescribed medications, not delivering legal documents, not allowing them to see their relative, and at one point, even cutting off text message communication between them and their family member. The family asked for our assistance and a trooper was dispatched to speak with the family at the hospital. Following that conversation, Attorney General Knudsen spoke with hospital executives and received assurances that they would cease preventing communication between the patient and her family and deliver the legal documents she needed.

The Department of Justice initiated an investigation into very troubling allegations made by the family of a patient at St Peter’s Hospital. After hearing of the allegations and the ensuing investigation, Attorney General Knudsen contacted a board member who set up a telephone conference with hospital executives. No one was threatened or had their clinical judgment questioned while the Department of Justice was trying to get to the bottom of the serious allegations that the hospital was mistreating a patient and violating her rights and her family’s rights. The investigation is ongoing.
Office of Attorney General Austin Knudsen