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High Number of Distress Cases Reported at Hospital Where Nurse Worked

August 14, 1991

ATLANTA (AP) _ An unusually high number of cases in which intensive care patients suddenly become distressed and needed resuscitation were reported at a hospital that employed a nurse under investigation for 18 suspicious deaths.

Birmingham, Ala., police Capt. Bill Gaut identified the nurse as Joe Akin, 34, of suburban Cobb County, Ga.

Alabama officials are investigating one patient’s death there.

The nurse also is under investigation in connection with 17 deaths at North Fulton Regional Hospital in suburban Atlanta, according to Atlanta television station WAGA.

A quality control review at North Fulton in December revealed an unusually high number of ″codes,″ or cases in which patients needed to be resuscitated, said Frederick Bailey, the hospital’s chief executive officer.

″We felt there may be some impropriety ... and there may be some reason to suspect a particular nurse,″ Bailey said. ″We contacted the state Board of Nursing and they felt it was unusual also.″

But, he added, ″We have absolutely no evidence whatsoever that anybody died as a result of that.″

Akin, who worked in the intensive care unit, was fired by the hospital in December, but Bailey refused to say why.

Four nurses at North Fulton went to authorities with suspicions about a higher-than-average number of ″code blue″ incidents, The Atlanta Journal- Constitution reported in a copyright story in today’s editions.

In those incidents, patients’ hearts suddenly became distressed and the patients often die unless they get immediate emergency care.

The Journal-Constitution, citing police records, said the hospital normally averaged about two blue codes a month, but had 32 incidents during the six months Akin worked there.

Nurses suspected at least four deaths as a result of some of the unexplained code blue emergencies, the report said.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigations said Tuesday it was investigating the ″criminal conduct″ of a former North Fulton employee. Larry Wheeler, assistant deputy director of the bureau, refused to say whether the probe involved suspicious deaths.

No charges had been filed.

Akin learned about two weeks ago of the state investigation into the North Fulton deaths, said his attorney, John Matteson.

″He has no idea what’s going on,″ Matteson said.

Akin had worked at North Fulton where there had been a ″series of suspicious deaths,″ Matteson said. ″They investigated him and other people, they cleared him and then closed the file.″

The Alabama investigation began shortly after the death in March of a patient at Birmingham’s Cooper Green Hospital, where Akin worked at the time, Gaut said.

Akin was fired about three months ago from Cooper Green, which serves the county’s indigent, said Jefferson County, Ala., Commissioner Jeff Germany.

Cooper Green officials refused to say why he was fired.

News reports quoting police records and unidentified officials at North Fulton and Georgia Baptist Hospital, where the nurse worked for 10 months in 1989 and 1990, said he was fired from both hospitals because of falsified credentials.

Akin’s mother, Elease Akin of Cordova, Ala., told The Journal-Constitution her son considers himself a trauma specialist and wanted to work in intensive care.

″The more trauma was involved, the more he enjoyed it,″ she said. ″Being on the other floors would drive him batty.″

Mrs. Akin said her son was ″lying low″ until the investigations are completed.

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