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Five Elderly Patients Fed Disinfectant In Place Of Fruit Juice

September 10, 1986

SURREY, British Columbia (AP) _ Five elderly hospital patients, including a 100-year-old man, survived after they were accidentally fed a powerful disinfectant instead of pink fruit juice.

The 100-year-old man and a 78-year-old woman remained in the Surrey Memorial Hospital intensive care unit but ″it appears the worst is over,″ hospital President Roger Bernatzki said Wednesday. The other three were in the general wards.

Bernatzki said all five, patients in the hospital’s extended care unit, were out of danger.

Three hospital employees were suspended with pay until an investigation of Monday’s event is completed and any disciplinary action is determined, he said.

The disinfectant involved was Mikro-quat, a powerful soap used to sterilize dishes and tabletops, but staff originally thought a milder hand soap was the culprit so the necessary treatment was delayed, Bernatzki said.

Both disinfectants have the same color and texture as the pink fruit juice ″and you have to put your nose very close to determine the difference in smell,″ he said.

Bernatzki said the mixup began when the contents of a 217-gallon container were put into 4.5-quart containers, at least one of which was not labeled. The unlabeled jug was sent to the hospital’s dietary department.

On Monday, the extended care pavilion asked for some Mikro-quat, and the unlabeled container was sent at the same time the pavilion’s evening meal was delivered, Bernatzki said. The container was placed near a sink in the same room where the food was taken.

Later, a dietary aide who was to dispense fruit juice just before bedtime ″saw the jug and assumed it had been taken out of the fridge by someone else and poured it into cups,″ he said.

Bernatzki said the juice was only distributed to five people before people starting getting ill.

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