Nurse suspected of causing premature deaths of 20 Covid patients to stay in jail
This article was updated with more information.
A 30-year-old former nurse is currently suspected of involvement in the deaths of 20 patients who were being treated for Covid-19 symptoms at the Wilhelmina Hospital in Assen (WZA), the Public Prosecution Service (OM) announced on Thursday. He was ordered by a court in Assen to remain in jail for at least another 30 days of pretrial detention.
Theodoor V. from Noordenveld, Drenthe, was working as a pulmonology nurse at the hospital during the coronavirus pandemic. The hospital previously said the deaths took place in the ward for Covid-19 patients, and investigators were focusing on the period from March 2020 to May 2022. A healthcare organization in Drenthe sent a letter to the WZA earlier this year about conversations V. allegedly had with other caregivers.
"In those conversations, he indicated several times that, as a pulmonary nurse in the WZA, he had prematurely ended the lives of 20 patients during the coronavirus pandemic," the OM said. "The suspect allegedly performed medical procedures on patients who, in his view, were terminal and suffering, without instructions from a doctor. His statements were taken so seriously by the healthcare organization that they decided, after extensive collegial deliberation and obtaining both internal and external legal advice, to break the confidentiality obligation and to report it to the WZA."
The suspect has already stopped working at the WZA by the time the hospital was informed of the situation.The OM said that police first began their investigation on March 9 after the hospital notified the authorities. The hospital formally pressed charges a few days later, and the suspect was officially suspended from his work. The investigation led to V.'s arrest on April 17. The hospital's board of directors said they were shocked by the matter.
The criminal investigation is ongoing, prosecutors said. "This includes statements from the suspect himself, but also from colleagues and relatives. Medical records are also being examined. This on the basis of the duty roster of the suspect in combination with patients who died in or around that time." Experts are looking for irregularities in a study that should be completed by the end of June.
The suspect was being kept in restricted custody, and until Thursday was only allowed to keep contact with his lawyers, who were pushing for the court to release the restrictions. The court agreed to this on Thursday, the OM said, which also gave them the ability to release more details about the case. Earlier, the OM would only say that the case concerned "several patients." Previously, a surviving relative of one of the victims told newspaper AD that police said they were investigating 24 different deaths as part of the case against V.
Several families of victims were informed about the criminal investigation two weeks ago, attorney Sébas Diekstra told newswire ANP. Diekstra is assisting several families of those who died. "That announcement has completely turned their lives upside down," Diekstra stated. "They have so many questions at the moment and the uncertainty about how their loved one died torments them enormously. Of course, the relatives also want proper research to be done, but at the same time they hope that the desired clarity will come very soon."
“We are concerned for the well-being of our employees and any patients or surviving relatives involved,” WZA board member Hans Mulder previously said. “In the coming period, we will focus, together with the police, on collecting facts. The next steps to be taken are determined on the basis of facts.”
The first public hearing in the man's criminal case will take place in three months' time. His pretrial detention can be extended further next month.