A kidney dialysis worker accused of asking his patients for painkillers is behind bars after allegedly pouring bleach into the clinic’s dialysis machines.
Donald Foster III, 49, who worked at the Fresenius Medical Care clinic in West Columbia, South Carolina, was arrested after a month-long investigation by local authorities.
Workers at the clinic discovered the contaminated water before anyone was hurt.
He has been charged with attempted murder and second-degree burglary, and is currently being held on $525,000 bond.
Foster was suspended from his job as an equipment technician and patient care technician on July 2, but he came back less than a week later and tainted the water, police said.
‘He had planned to carry out a mass murder in order to get back at his employer,’ Lexington County Sheriff James Metts told the Associated press.
Foster poured bleach into tanks that hold the purified water used to filter waste from the bodies of 20 patients, hoping the deaths from his sabotage would bankrupt the firm, police said.
The 49-year-old single parent asked a judge to let him out of jail because he needs to take care of his 5-year-old daughter.
‘This is all a misunderstanding, really,’ Foster said, speaking from behind a mesh-covered opening behind a locked door during his arraignment.
‘He had no empathy or feeling for human life at all. All he wanted to do was destroy this company.’
-Sheriff James Metts
Foster’s lawyer asked for a reasonable bond, and declined to talk about the case after the hearing, WMBF reported.
Authorities asked for as high of a bond as possible, saying Foster was a flight risk with no regard for the lives of other people.
Foster faces up to 45 years in prison if convicted of both charges.
Foster was suspended because he was trying to get elderly patients to give him their prescription painkillers, Mr Metts said.
He sneaked past a cleaning lady on a Saturday and poured bleach into the tanks that hold the purified water for the dialysis treatment, prosecutors alleged.
Authorities said that Foster was fully aware that any contaminant could kill people whose kidneys are already so weak that they filter very little of the impurities in their blood.
Those with poor renal function are reliant on kidney dialysis machines to filter waste from the body, which is the function of healthy kidneys.
A patient is hooked up to a dialysis machine, which removes blood from the body and circulated through a fluid circuit outside the body.
This process is known as hemodialysis. It is of utmost importance that the water be purse, as any small bit of dirt or debris could affect the blood stream.
Pure water is so critical to the dialysis process that workers check the tanks several times a day, including before any patients are hooked up to the machines, said Jon Stone, a spokesman for German-based Fresenius Medical Care.
‘Although patients’ treatments were slightly delayed, no one was harmed and all of our patients received their scheduled treatments that day. We are proud of our staff and are grateful that they caught this situation,’ Stone said in a statement.
The workers called police after discovering the contaminated water. Foster was fired, and representatives of the clinic who were at his bond hearing again asked he be kept far away from the facility. They did not give their names.
The sheriff said Foster denied the sabotage at first, but as detectives gathered more evidence, his story became less credible.
‘He finally did admit he had done it,’ Mr Metts said.
The indifference Foster showed toward human life and the very patients he made sure were comfortable as they endured dialysis treatments for several hours, several times a week shocked the sheriff.
‘He had no empathy or feeling for human life at all,’ Mr Metts said. ‘All he wanted to do was destroy this company.’