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UT Medical Center Changes Care Plans for IV Drug Users

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- UT Medical Center has had issues with patients bringing illegal drugs into the hospital. So they are changing their protocol for patients who come in with IV drug use infections.

Chief Operating Officer Jerry Epps says, "It's important for us to increase patient safety. That's my responsibility, and the safety of our employees."

Patients will have to sign a plan of care that outlines this new infection treatment which lasts about six to eight weeks while they administer antibiotics to kill the infection in the heart, bone or tissue. While in the hospital, the patients must wear hospital gowns instead of regular clothes, they won't be allowed to have any visitors, and they can't roam the hospital.

Epps said, "We're going to keep them on the floors where their rooms are because we don't want them going outside or to the garage where people can get them drugs."

While in the hospital, Epps said he hopes to treat their infection and then give them resources to get clean. Epps said the facility has usually admitted five to 12 patients with IV drug related infections at any given time.The Metro Drug Coalition said they think this is a great idea, and organization leaders hope it will lead to recovery for many addicts.Deborah Crouse with Metro Drug Coalition said, "It would be great for other facilities to take initiative like this to help people living in addiction get back their life."If the patients decide they don't want to follow this new protocol, they can refuse care and leave the hospital.

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