Nurse committed murders to "test" doctors

Hospital in Havlickuv Brod, photo: CTK

Police have already dubbed it an unprecedented case in Czech criminal history: a case in which a hospital nurse murdered seven patients by lethal injection, and attempted to kill ten others. The nurse, 30-year-old Petr Zelenka who worked at a hospital in eastern Bohemia's Havlickuv Brod, was caught, but not before several months had passed: from May to December. Now, many are questioning how the perpetrator was able to get away with it for so long and are calling for preventive measures to stop anything similar from happening again.

He reportedly killed with a hidden vial of heparin - a blood-thinning drug causing internal bleeding when administered in large doses. Then, he quietly completed his shift. 30-year-old Petr Zelenka: nurse at the hospital in Havlickuv Brod. At first, the hospital was unable to register anything wrong given the relatively high number of deaths in intensive care even under normal circumstances. But, eventually, it became clear that an unusually high number of patients were dying from internal bleeding.

The scales were tipped by a seventh death in September and it was then that the hospital negotiated with Mr Zelenka to give up his post. Acting on suspicions, the hospital finally notified police a week later, but charges were not pressed against the nurse per sae but against an unknown perpetrator.

Now, not surprisingly, there has been criticism. Some think that the hospital should have been more swift in its actions and should have informed regional health authorities about the case. Some even the health minister has stated, it should have fired Mr Zelenka outright rather than ending his contract by negotiation. Those measures would have arguably prevented Mr Zelenka from getting a job at another hospital in nearby Jihlava. Although it appears while there Mr Zelenka did not have time to kill again, there is little doubt he would have eventually. Police psychologist Ludmila Cirtkova described such killers' states for Czech Radio:

Health Minister Tomas Julinek,  photo: CTK
"Such people enjoy killing the helpless, those who need to rely on the help of others. They think and feel differently than the rest of us and get enjoyment from deciding over life and death. That's where they gain the most pleasure."

Although Mr Zelenka case is being treated as an isolated one but there's no question security and procedural checks at hospitals and health facilities will now need to be increased. Health Minister Tomas Julinek:

"It's important that hospitals implement a higher number of mechanisms for repeatedly checking some processes: more controls, more people, like you have for security at airports. Like airports, hospitals are highly sensitive sites. Measures should be introduced. That also pertains to my call on hospital directors to increase accreditation in security measures several weeks ago."

In this case, Mr Zelenka has already confessed and has been taken into custody. His lawyer has been quoted as saying the nurse may have killed on an impulse to "test" doctors in Havlickuv Brod, in the belief they were not good enough to discover the truth. According to reports, this is one area where the suspect has shown emotion: surprise that in the end he finally was caught.