Midstate hospitals seek to protect staff from elephant tranquilizer

Written by Amber South/Chambersburg Public Opinion | Sep 2, 2017 12:16 PM

In this June 27, 2016 photo provided by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, a member of the RCMP opens a printer ink bottle containing the opioid carfentanil imported from China, in Vancouver. The drug was linked to a death in York County. (Photo: Royal Canadian Mounted Police via AP)

(Undated) -- Medical professionals in Franklin County are operating under new rules to protect themselves from exposure to a powerful drug. 

Summit Health announced in a news release that it is updating policies and equipment to ensure their front-line staff at both Chambersburg and Waynesboro hospitals have the tools they need to safely handle carfentanil. 

The drug carries serious risks for first responders and healthcare workers who may come into contact with it while treating patients who have used it.

Originally intended for use as an elephant tranquilizer, people have begun using the substance as the opioid epidemic rages on. 

A synthetic opioid, it is 10,000 times more potent than morphine.  A dose the size of five to seven grains of table salt can incapacitate an average sized man. 

Staff learned of the policy changes last week. 

Key changes were made to rules regarding the personal protection equipment worn by clinical employees. Staff members treating anyone for a suspected opioid overdose must wear a gown, gloves, goggles and a special mask that can filter particles out of the air.

"Our staff cannot be too careful when dealing with this dangerous substance and the fact that it is hard to see a particle of carfentanil on someone's clothes presents our staff with additional challenges," explained Waynesboro Hospital Emergency Department director Joe Nadzady, in a news relase.  "We need to make sure we are able to offer the best care to our community, and protecting our caregivers is vital to us being able to help others. 

Carfentanil is suspected to be the cause of a recent fatal overdose in the county. The overdose is the first involving the drug in the county. 

This article is part of a content-sharing partnership between WITF and Public Opinion Online.

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