There have been tests for HIV and hepatitis, a lawsuit against the hospital and lots of speculation, but the case against a former Shore Medical Center pharmacist is complex, his attorney said Monday.
“It’s really important to remember that, in complex cases, the first impression is very often a wrong impression,” defense attorney John Zarych said outside the courtroom, following a brief hearing.
Frederick McLeish is charged with drug-tampering and other crimes for allegedly stealing morphine in 2014, while he worked at Shore, and replacing it with saline.
McLeish has a long history of drug and alcohol abuse and had six license suspensions, records show.
In 1994, he admitted to relapsing into alcoholism, according to documents. That same year, he wrote a guest column in The Press of Atlantic City, bemoaning the possible loss of the community pharmacy. At the time, he worked at the Absecon Pharmacy.
The next year, he received a four-year suspension.
Zarych is still awaiting the state’s evidence in the case. Assistant Prosecutor Aaron Witherspoon told the judge it should be available, and that if there were any problems, Zarych should alert him.
McLeish is due back in court May 10.
Shore previously alerted 213 patients who were at the hospital in 2013 and 2014 that they may have been exposed to HIV, hepatitis C and hepatitis B. According to a letter sent to patients, an investigation revealed an unsafe injection process that may have exposed the patients to the blood-borne pathogens.
But neither the hospital nor the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office has confirmed it’s related to the McLeish case.
A lawsuit filed in February on behalf of one of the patients claims the unnamed person sustain severe and permanent bodily injury, pain, suffering and emotional distress. The patient and spouse are seeking unspecified damages, including compensatory damages, punitive damages, interest, attorneys' fees, the cost of the suit and anything else the court deems just.
The lawyers in that case have subpoenaed the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office for its investigative file, attorney Michael Mackler said. The Prosecutor’s Office has filed a motion to quash that subpoena.
“As the hospital has been silent as to the methodology used to select those who may have been infected, we want to see what the prosecutor's investigation revealed as to this very important public health issue,” Mackler said. “We were hopeful that the information contained in the Prosecutor’s file would help us understand the methodology used by the hospital to determine who was to be notified."