A state investigation of mysterious fumes that overcame several emergency room workers at Riverside (Calif.) General Hospital last February found nothing in the hospital's facilities or operations that could account for the bizarre incident.
The report, released last week, said investigators from California's Division of Occupational Safety and Health could not determine the source of the fumes.
The state report came a week after Julie Gorchynski, the emergency room physician most seriously injured by the fumes that seemed to come from a dying cancer patient, filed a $6 million claim against Riverside County, Riverside General Hospital and the OSH.
Dr. Gorchynski charged that officials were either negligent in investigating the incident or intentionally destroyed evidence that could help identify the fumes.
Dr. Gorchynski is recovering from "severe toxic reaction, pancreatitis, respiratory failure, hepatitis, unconsciousness, restrictive lung disease, shortness of breath, avascular necrosis of bone, post-traumatic stress disorder and osteonecrosis," according to her complaint.
Respondents have 45 days to respond to the complaint, after which a civil suit can be filed. "We expect to file a suit," said Russell Kussman, Dr. Gorchynski's attorney.
The incident began as a nurse attempted to draw blood from 31-year-old Gloria Ramirez, a victim of cervical cancer who was in cardiac arrest. The nurse smelled ammonia-like fumes and passed out. Dr. Gorchynski took over for the nurse and, noticing white crystals in the blood-filled syringe, smelled the syringe and passed out as well, according to Mr. Kussman.
But Tom De Santis, the county public information officer, said that last April Riverside Hospital "very openly" released information from several independent studies showing that emergency room ventilation and plumbing systems were not the cause of the incident.