Summit Health in Franklin County changes overdose policy to better protect medical staff from potent drugs

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CHAMBERSBURG, FRANKLIN COUNTY, Pa. -- As more areas encounter the drug carfentanil, health professionals are taking steps to prevent exposing themselves to the powerful opioid. The drug is 10,000 times more potent than morphine.

After a suspected carfentanil overdose in the Franklin County community, Summit Heath actually changed their policies to include the D-Con room when they are responding to a potential carfentinal overdose.

When an overdose victim comes to Chambersburg Hospital, they may first take a trip to the decontamination room.

"We actually have to treat this like any other biohazardos exposure - strict 9 gas any type of bio terrorism," said Dr. Vincent Bocchino, who works in emergency medicine for Summit Health.

Officials say just a few grains of Carfentanil, or about this much salt, can be lethal to a person.

"Carfentinil is a different story because of the extremely high potency of it to cause respiratory distress and making people people who are exposed to it stop breathing," added Dr. Bocchino.

Summit Health includes Chambersburg Hospital and Waynesboro Hospital.

Summit health changed policy after the suspected elephant tranquilizer overdose, being proactive, because physicians can't always know what a person took, inhaled, or ingested prior to the trip to the emergency room.

"We're kind of stuck with a patient without much of a history," explained Dr. Bocchino.

Officials say medical staff must adapt to the drugs they could encounter and will now look like this: wearing a mask, gown, goggles, and Nitril gloves when treating overdose victims.

"We're relying on vital signs. We're relying on tox-screens. We're relying on response to treatment to see what's going on," said Dr. Bocchino. "It's a major problem."

Summit Health officials say they want to keep their staff and employees safe so they're constantly updating their policies as new trends in the community occur.