A spokesman for Prince George's County General Hospital said yesterday that as many as five suspicious cases of patient care are being investigated after the arrest Wednesday of a hospital nurse who has been charged with murder in the death of a patient.
Police refused to comment on the number of patients involved in their investigation, but hospital spokesman Michael Canning said "less than half a dozen suspicious cases are being looked at."
The nurse, Jane Frances Bolding of 112 1/2 F St. SE in the District, was released on bond yesterday. She will be allowed to live with her family in Bladensburg while police continue investigating the medical histories of her other patients.
Maj. James Ross, head of the police department's Criminal Investigation Division, has declined to comment on the possibility of additional charges against Bolding. But he said yesterday that no other hospital employes were suspects in the investigation.
At the bond hearing yesterday, Fred R. Joseph, one of two lawyers retained by Bolding's family, told Prince George's District Court Judge Sylvania Woods that his client intends to plead not guilty. Joseph added, "Our position is that there were no killings whatsoever."
Bolding, an intensive care nurse, is accused in the cardiac arrest death of Elinor S. Dickerson, 70, of Oxon Hill, on Sept. 29. According to a police statement filed late Wednesday in the District Court, Bolding, 27, "confessed to killing Dickerson by intentionally administering lethal amounts of potassium, knowing this amount would cause the death and relieve Dickerson from further suffering."
Potassium helps regulate muscular activity. However, in excessively high or low amounts, it can interfere with the rhythm of, or stop, the heart, explained Robert Wallace, a Georgetown surgeon.
Canning and other hospital employes pointed out that the deaths of patients in the intensive care unit are common occurrences because the sickest patients are treated there. Canning said 17 of 22 patients in Bolding's care died during a period of about 14 months. But, he said, 21 of another group of 23 patients not cared for by Bolding also died.
The bond hearing was held via closed-circuit television where Bolding was able to speak with the judge by telephone from the jail. Her parents, brother and sister sat quietly and stared at the television in the courtroom. The family later refused to talk to reporters.
The judge allowed Bolding's release on a $50,000 bond, with the understanding that she would not work at any hospital and would undergo counseling.
The judge told Bolding that because of the support shown by her family and coworkers, "You are not likely to flee."
During the hearing, Joseph described Bolding's "spotless" record. He said she graduated from Bladensburg High School in the top 10 percent of her class. She worked as a technician at the hospital until earning her associate's degree in nursing from Prince George's Community College in 1983, when she also earned her registered nursing license.
Over the last 10 months, she worked infrequently on weekends at the intensive care unit at D.C.'s Capitol Hill Hospital. Administrator Randy Rolfe said yesterday that there were no irregularities with the patients she cared for.
Canning said Bolding was highly regarded by colleagues. One surgeon, who asked not to be named said, "I don't believe she did it . . . . This woman, as I know her, is a very dedicated woman; very caring."
Yesterday, William Cooley, who lives next door to Bolding, said the nurse seemed to lead a quiet life. "Until last night, I didn't even know her name . . . . She seemed pleasant."
According to several hospital employes, the initial hospital review was begun about two weeks ago after a young man who was seriously injured in a car accident had three unexplained heart failures. While hospital and police officials refused to release his name, employes said he is recovering.
Police records indicate that Dickerson, the patient who died, was admitted on Sept. 24 after a fall. Police said records indicate that Dickerson died of a heart attack.
Her friends at McGuire House, a low-income residence for the elderly and handicapped in Oxon Hill, said Dickerson was a solitary figure. She had lived in the seven-story building since 1976, and was not believed to have any relatives in the area, although she sometimes mentioned a daughter in Austin, Tex., the residents said.