Nurse Charles Cullen, who has admitted killing as many as 40 patients over 14 years, was suspected in a hospital murder as long ago as 1993.
Yet he was allowed to continue his career at a series of hospitals in New Jersey and Pennsylvania because his employers failed to share allegations and suspicions during background and reference checks by other hospitals, says the New York Times.
One hospital under scrutiny is St. Luke’s in Bethlehem, Pa., where authorities scrutinized Cullen in connection with 69 suspicious patient deaths.
Cullen quit in 2002 rather than answer questions. He then went to work at two other hospitals in the next few months without word of his past accompanying him–possibility due to fear of lawsuits.
Officials at two hospitals that employed him say they checked Cullen’s references and that previous employers gave him positive reviews. Only in the last few days did they learn that those employers had fired him.
Hospitals and public agencies that looked into him say they were defeated by a system that lacks a way to spread the word about medical professionals suspected of misdeeds, and by hospitals and government agencies that are unwilling to do so.
“What I’m coming to understand is that, short of an actual conviction or revocation of a license, none of that information gets shared,” said Dr. William Cors, chief medical officer at Somerset Medical Center in Somerville, N.J., where Cullen last worked and where, prosecutors say, he may have killed 12 to 15 patients.