Annie Knox
Elet Neilson

LAYTON — A woman who says she contracted hepatitis C from a former emergency room nurse accused of stealing drugs and infecting patients has sued Davis Hospital and Medical Center, saying it didn't do enough to prevent or address the problem.

Karen Samulski went to the emergency room for chest pain, shortness of breath and what she thought could have been pneumonia in October 2011, her attorneys argue in a medical malpractice lawsuit filed Thursday.

But she did not know she might have contracted hepatitis C until she received a letter from the hospital in 2015 that indicated she may have been exposed to the infection sometime between 2011 and 2013. The onetime nurse, Elet Neilson, 51, used contaminated needles or medication in Samulski's care, the lawsuit alleges.

The patient's attorneys argue the hospital failed to protect her and guard against or report drug thefts, and that it didn't follow procedures for managing medication. Samulski's attorneys in court documents say the Layton hospital was not timely in investigating the nurse's behavior or in firing her. They seek damages to be determined at trial, including attorneys fees.

The suit also was filed against Iasis Healthcare, the hospital's then-parent company, and 10 unnamed people.

Neilson, who also goes by Elet Hamblin, documented giving Samulski some morphine but wrote she did not give additional doses, or the drugs Zofran and Ativan — a move meant to conceal that the nurse took them for her own use, attorneys argue in the suit.

A 2014 investigation conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Utah Department of Health found that at least seven patients whom Neilson administered intravenous opioid painkillers or morphine to in 2013 and 2014 were infected with the disease, according to an indictment.

It's not known how the nurse contracted hepatitis C, a virus that attacks the liver and is transmitted by infected blood, often by sharing needles.

Neilson has a conviction in a criminal case stemming from the hepatitis C outbreak in the Ogden area. In 2015, she pleaded guilty to attempted possession or use of a controlled substance. The charge, originally, a third-degree felony, was reduced to a class A misdemeanor in Utah's 2nd District Court. She was sentenced to two years of probation. A separate federal case is also pending.

She lost her nursing license, and McKay-Dee Hospital fired her after she admitted to Utah's professional license officers in December 2014 that she stole morphine and Dilaudid from the hospital stockroom weekly for seven months for her own use.

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Investigators expanded the case after finding out that the nurse previously worked at Davis Hospital and Medical Center. She stole IV Benadryl from Davis Hospital and Medical Center in Layton where she worked from 2011 to 2013, according to a 2017 federal indictment.

McKay-Dee administrators in November 2015 asked nearly 7,200 patients at the Ogden and Layton hospitals to get tested for hepatitis C in November after Neilson and a patient both tested positive for the same rare strain.

Messages left with the hospital Monday and with an attorney believed to be Neilson's were not immediately returned.