Prince George's County has paid the federal Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta $16,500 to speed up a study of the mortality rate at Prince George's General Hospital and what factors could be associated with deaths in the hospital's intensive care unit.
Investigators are looking for any unusual clusters of deaths of patients in the intensive care unit as part of the investigation of a suspicious death of an elderly patient almost two years ago, according to Prince George's State's Attorney Arthur A. Marshall Jr. The CDC began the study in December at Marshall's request.
Jane Frances Bolding, a former intensive care nurse at the hospital, was charged in the death of a 70-year-old woman who was under her care. Marshall eventually dropped the charges for lack of evidence, but he continued to examine circumstances surrounding the death.
In a letter to Marshall, Dr. Jeffrey J. Sacks of the CDC said the medical charts of all patients in the intensive care unit from 1983 to 1985 have been reviewed, with special attention given to patients who died or had a heart attack while in the unit, and to the staff taking care of those patients.
Sacks asked for the additional funds, according to his letter, to hire temporary help that will enable him to complete the study in midsummer instead of early fall. The study will be turned over to Marshall, who said he has asked the CDC "to move as expeditiously as possible."
The patient, Elinor S. Dickerson of Oxon Hill, died in September 1984. Hospital officials initially listed her cause of death as cardiac arrest.
In March 1985, police charged Bolding, 27, of Southeast Washington with first-degree murder. Police alleged that Bolding administered lethal amounts of potassium to Dickerson, knowing that the dosage would cause her death.
At a preliminary hearing in Prince George's District Court last April, police testified that between January 1984 and March 1985, patients in the hospital's intensive care unit suffered a total of 105 heart attacks and that 51 of those attacks occurred to 22 of Bolding's patients, 17 of whom died.
Steven P. Lemmey, one of Bolding's attorneys, said that Bolding maintains her innocence and he questioned whether Marshall is justified in continuing to spend taxpayers' money investigating Dickerson's death.
"This is a continuing source of strife for us that this nightmare goes on," said Lemmey, who added that he believes the study's results will benefit Bolding.