KANAGAWA (TR) – The number of deaths reported on the fourth floor at a hospital in Yokohama where two elderly patients were allegedly murdered by poison had stopped after police started an investigation on September 20, despite 48 deaths reported since July, an investigative source told the Sankei Shimbun on Monday (October 3).
A total of 48 patients died at Oguchi Hospital between July 1 and September 20, with five deaths on a single day in August and four deaths in one day in September, the Kanagawa Prefectural Police Headquarters said.
The other 46 deaths could have also been murders due to poisonings, police said.
The number of deaths reported after hospital officials announced on September 20 there was foaming spotted in the intravenous (IV) bag of Nobuo Yamaki, 88, one of the murdered patients, is still unknown.
The hospital confirmed the death of Souzou Nishikawa, 88, the other poisoned patient, on September 18.
Oguchi Hospital was taking in a large number of elderly patients requiring end-of-life care, and Yoichi Takahashi, the director of the hospital, said the number of deaths reported after July was “indeed rather high, so there was suspicion of in-hospital infection.”
A man whose 91-year-old mother was transferred from the fourth floor to the third floor told TV Asahi that hospital officials told him “it’ll be fine because it’s the third floor.”
“It’s not like people on the third floor are ending up like that [dying one after another], so please don’t worry,” the man quoted hospital officials as saying.
No locks, cameras
The IV bags were being stored in a location with no keys, and the hospital itself was not equipped with security cameras, the Kanagawa Shimbun reported.
There were 50 patients at the hospital when the poisonings came to light at the five-floor hospital, according to hospital officials. One security guard was on patrol at night, and two nurses were stationed on the fourth floor.
The nurse station was left unattended at times, with no security cameras on-site save for one on the first-floor lobby — which was a fake with no video function.
Nurses silenced by senior official?
Local media also reported numerous issues on the fourth floor, including a nurse’s uniform that was slashed up and “substances” that were mixed into a drink. Hospital officials determined they were “issues that should be settled in-hospital” and chose not to consult police, according to the Kanagawa Shimbun.
A family member of one of the patients staying on the floor said it was “the kind of place where anyone can come and go, even at night.”
“There was once someone that looked like they were homeless, j ust hanging around in the waiting room,” the family member told Shukan Post (Oct. 14-21). “I asked them if they were here to be seen, but they replied it was just a place to wait out the rain.”
A source at the hospital claimed the nurses on the fourth floor “ceased communicating with the media after news broke about Nishikawa’s death.”
“The nurses were apparently ordered by the hospital’s director of general affairs to absolutely not talk,” the source said.
Oguchi Hospital has ceased accepting new patients and suspended out-patient treatment since the serial poisoning murders came to light.