- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 1, 2009

SAN ANTONIO (AP) - A former nurse has been charged with injecting 10 patients with bleach, killing five of them, at a Texas dialysis clinic that temporarily closed last year after deaths mysteriously spiked.

Since the deaths over a four-week span last April, Kimberly Saenz (pronounced SINES) had been the focus of the investigation at the DaVita Inc. clinic in Lufkin. She was charged in May with aggravated assault involving bleach injections in two patients who survived, but she had not been charged in any deaths until late Tuesday.

The grand jury in Angelina County handed up indictments on one count of capital murder, which includes all five patient deaths, and five counts of aggravated assault, which replace the two charges filed last year and allege that three other patients were injected and survived.

Saenz, 35, was being held Wednesday at the county jail without bond. Her attorney, John Henry Tatum, hasn’t returned numerous calls seeking comment, including one Wednesday, since her initial arrest last year.

Lufkin police have said two patients witnessed Saenz draw bleach into syringes and inject them into patients. Authorities say tests showed traces of bleach on the syringes and dialysis lines.

DaVita, which operates about 1,300 dialysis centers nationally, has painted Saenz as a rogue nurse. She worked as a licensed nurse for nearly four years in Texas and spent eight months at DaVita before being fired on April 29.

The previous day, the clinic had closed because of the spate of deaths. It reopened under heavy state oversight after being instructed to follow the most serious plan of correction that health officials have at their disposal.

State health records showed 19 deaths at the clinic in the five months before its brief closure, and its mortality rate was 7.1 percent higher than the state average. Inspectors found 34 patients were transferred out of the facility by ambulance that April, more than four times the previous month.

Among Saenz’s alleged victims was Thelma Metcalf, who died on April 1, 2008. Her daughter, Wanda Hollingsworth, said Wednesday she still feels DaVita bore responsibility but was glad that Saenz had been indicted in the deaths.

“I’m glad she’s in jail,” Hollingsworth said. “I don’t want her to hurt anyone else.”

In a statement, DaVita said the indictments were a “painful reminder” of the deaths.

“This lone individual’s alleged intentional and deceptive acts have caused incredible grief for the victims’ family members, the Lufkin community and the caring teammates who work at the Lufkin Dialysis Center,” the company said.

Lufkin is a city of about 34,000 residents about 120 miles north of Houston.

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