At least 3 people treated after fentanyl exposure in Falmouth Hospital ER

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FALMOUTH — At least three people required treatment with Narcan after a tussle with a combative patient in the Falmouth Hospital emergency room Thursday afternoon exposed public safety workers and hospital staff to the potentially deadly substance fentanyl.

The hospital ER was closed for a few hours to incoming ambulances — who were diverted to other hospitals — while the state hazmat team responded and decontaminated the scene, officials said.

Falmouth Fire Department Chief Timothy R. Smith said the incident began around 2 p.m.

Fire rescue personnel went to the Falmouth Hospital campus to assist Falmouth police and evaluate a male found outside on a bench.

The patient was taken by ambulance to the Falmouth Hospital ER but became combative during the transfer process, Smith said.

"While trying to control the situation, several public safety personnel and hospital staff were exposed to a substance that was on the patient," he said. "As a result, personnel quickly developed symptoms of light headiness and other similar effects."

At least three people required administration of Narcan, which rapidly reverses an opioid overdose, because of the exposure, Smith said.

The individuals getting Narcan included a fire department employee as well as hospital staff members, he said Friday.

Smith said about four other people including Falmouth Police Department members were involved in the incident, but they did not experience any kind of reaction to the drug exposure and did not receive the medication for overdoses.

"It was eventually determined that the substance contained fentanyl, a very potent opioid drug, as well as other detected chemicals," Smith said in a press release on the Falmouth Fire Department's Facebook page.

Smith said the patient was isolated in a treatment room while a state hazmat team on the scene came up with a plan to identify the substance the people were exposed to and to decontaminate the ER, ambulances and personnel.

A Falmouth Fire Department ambulance and a Bourne Fire Department ambulance had to be decontaminated, Smith said. The latter ambulance had brought the patient to the hospital earlier in the day.

After being discharged, the patient came into contact with public safety officials once again after Falmouth police responded to a report about him exhibiting concerning behavior while sitting on a bench outside a medical building on the Falmouth Hospital campus, Smith said.

Smith said police found and secured a product found on the bench, but more substances were released during the incident in the room at the ER.

Fire and rescue officials call in a hazmat team whenever a substance has an immediate health impact on the people exposed, whether it is pool or industrial chemicals or a suspected illicit drug, Smith said.

He said members of the state Department of Fire Services also responded.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes fentanyl as a synthetic opioid that is approved for treating severe pain such as those with advanced cancer pain. It is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and its illegal use is driving much of the increase in opioid overdose deaths.

Smith said he believes the drug was in a powder form.

"After an extensive decontamination process, the areas of exposure were deemed safe and the emergency room services were returned to normal operations on or about 7 p.m.," Smith said.

He said it's not unusual for public safety officers to come into possible contact with fentanyl, but this incident was unusual because of the number of people exposed and the hospital setting.

All of the exposed public safety personnel and hospital staff were evaluated and released and no further symptoms were reported, Smith said.

"Everybody recovered."

This article originally appeared on Cape Cod Times: Falmouth Hospital ER closed after patient exposes staff to fentanyl

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