Saldivar co-workers face discipline

Gretchen Hoffman

GLENDALE -- Pursuing potential disciplinary action against convicted

killer Efren Saldivar's hospital co-workers continues to be one of the

Respiratory Care Board of California's highest priorities, officials

said.

That investigation will kick into high gear once again next month,

when grand jury transcripts are released following the April 17

sentencing of the former respiratory therapist.

Saldivar, 32, pleaded guilty Tuesday to murdering six elderly patients

while working at Glendale Adventist Medical Center in 1996 and 1997. He

injected them with Pavulon, a paralyzing drug that stops breathing.

In his Jan. 9, 2001, confession to Glendale Police, Saldivar said he

stopped keeping track of his victims when he killed for the 60th time in

1994, police said.

The hospital began investigating Saldivar in 1997 after receiving a

tip that one of its employees was killing patients. Former co-workers

have told police they knew he was doing it and that they saw unauthorized

prescription drugs in his locker at the hospital.

Pursuing disciplinary action against those co-workers has been one of

the board's highest priorities since the Saldivar investigation began,

said Stephanie Nunez, the board's executive officer.

Saldivar's license was revoked on March 13, 1998, two days after he

was arrested by Glendale Police. He was later released due to a lack of

corroborating evidence.

After his 1998 confession, he and four co-workers at Glendale

Adventist were fired. But the co-workers all kept their licenses.

The only one disciplined by the state -- and that was a reprimand --

was a co-worker who told their supervisor about Saldivar's "magic

syringe."

Another co-worker told Glendale Police in 1998 she once gave succinyl

choline, a powerful muscle relaxant used in surgery, to Saldivar.

The board's investigation stalled due to several factors, Nunez said.

"It has been a high priority," Nunez said. "It's not something that's

new; we've been tracking it very closely. It's a matter of getting

evidence."

In addition to not wanting to interfere with the investigation or the

prosecution's case, the simple fact was that "everyone was extremely not

cooperative," Nunez said.

"It was very difficult to obtain information from anyone interviewed,"

she added. Nunez declined to say who that included.

"The next step is to see if disciplinary action is warranted," she

said.

Board officials will examine the grand jury transcripts to see whether

disciplinary action is warranted or whether additional investigation is

needed.

Disciplinary action could range from a formal reprimand to revoking

licenses.

She declined to say how many people were being considered in the

investigation.

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