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Nurse accused of reusing syringes at Cherokee hospital identified as tribal chief's son

Nurse who reused syringes at hospital identified as tribal chief's son (KOKH/FILE)

The nurse who is accused of reusing syringes at Cherokee Nation's W.W. Hastings Hospital, which caused an HIV and hepatitis scare, has been identified as the principal chief's son, John Baker, RN.

More than 180 patients have been advised to be tested. Natasha West is one of them, who says she was given a test, without her knowledge or consent, but contacted afterward.

"Then the following Monday, all of this aired on the news, and I found out there had been a lapse in protocol. So yeah. anxiety hit the roof and I was scared. So a lot unanswered questions at that point, didn’t really know what was going on. Just nervous and a lot of unanswered questions," said West, who tested negative.

On April 29, the CEO of W.W. Hastings Hospital was informed of a lapse in protocol involving the administration of medication after allegations that a nurse reused syringes.

After an initial review, it was found that John Baker, son of Principal Chief Bill John Baker, was the nurse involved. The incident was reported to the Oklahoma Board of Nursing, and he resigned on May 1.

According to the hospital, Baker is no longer employed at Cherokee Nation or its entities in any capacity.

Principal Chief Bill John Baker has asked Dr. Charles Grim, D.D.S., M.H.S.A, executive director of Cherokee Nation Health Services and former director of the United States Indian Health Service, to lead a panel to review these events, evaluate best practices and improve medication administration procedures at Cherokee Nation Health Services.

Chief Baker has recused himself from this matter to ensure the independence of this review.

“Integrity, service and exceptional care are the core values of our remarkable health system,” Dr. Grim said. “Cherokees deserve to have confidence that when they visit one of our facilities they will receive the highest quality care available and that our employees will adhere to best practices.”

The hospital is testing more than 180 patients for HIV and hepatitis. Hospital CEO Brian Hail says it's unlikely blood-borne pathogens traveled into an IV bag to cause cross-contamination. But patients who were treated at the hospital between January and April are recommended to still return for blood tests.

“Cherokee Nation’s top priority is to provide quality health care in our first-class facilities, which include W.W. Hastings Hospital and eight health centers,” Dr. Grim said.

Both Principal Chief Bill John Baker and his son, John Baker, released statements on the matter.

Principal Chief Bill John Baker's statement:

I am deeply saddened by these events and my heart aches for everyone involved. As a father, it is difficult to witness my son experiencing the pain caused by his actions. His decision to pursue a career in service to others continues to fill me with pride to this day. John's honesty, cooperation and acceptance of responsibility ios representative of his values and the quality of man that he is. As Chief of this great nation I know that no one is exempt from the rules. Rules and procedures throughout our nation apply to everyone equally. That is most certainly the case here. I want to strongly encourage anyone who sees wrongdoing of any kind throughout our nation to know their voice will be heard and their concerns will be properly addressed. I'm grateful for the health care workers who helped identify this lapse and their continued service to Cherokee Nation Health Services and the patients they care for.

John Baker's statement:

I, John Baker, RN, am deeply sorry that my actions have caused such anxiety to these families. When I understood that I may not have been following proper procedures, I immediately began working with health care professionals to identify any mistakes that may have been made and cooperated in every possible way and then I resigned. I love caring for patients and would never knowingly put anyone at risk. My late mother was a nurse and I feel as though I inherited her passion for caring for others. I believe I was called to the nursing profession and I hope to serve patients with the same concern and compassionate care as she did, and I've always hoped she would be proud of the man I am. She and my father always taught me to take responsibility for my actions. As a follower of Jesus Christ, I believe that God offers us all grace and forgiveness and can redeem any situation for the good. God has certainly used this to teach me more humility. I have faith that God will use this situation to improve the care at Cherokee Health systems. Even though the chances of anyone ever being medically impacted by this are extremely remote, I've earnestly prayed night after night for all involved; I pray God's best for you all.
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