Hennepin Healthcare vows transparency after ketamine controversy

Hennepin Healthcare is vowing to remain transparent as they review their procedures on the use of the drug ketamine. The health system is embroiled in controversy following allegations that they enrolled patients in a clinical trial of the powerful sedative without their knowledge. 

This is a sensitive topic for many across the Twin Cities metro. First, the use of ketamine by EMTs, and then the research of its effects on patients. Hennepin Healthcare insists it wants to rebuild trust, and that starts with listening to the voices of the communities it serves.

“We’ve earned the trust of the community over 137 years and we will build on that legacy in the future,” Hennepin Healthcare chief medical officer Dr. William Heegaard told the system’s board Friday. 

But Heegaard said there’s room for improvement when it comes to transparency on the issue of EMT sedation of agitated patients in the field and subsequent research on the outcomes.

“To the best of our knowledge, no patient receives sedation medication who should not have received sedation medication because of the study,” Dr. Heegaard said.

Hennepin Healthcare has been under fire for a couple weeks now after the Star Tribune published contents of a leaked draft report detailing Minneapolis police officers allegedly urging its EMTs to administer the powerful drug ketamine to sedate patients or possible criminal suspects before transport to the hospital.

Those patients were then reportedly enrolled in a study on the drug’s effects and outcomes reportedly without getting the patient’s initial consent. Hennepin Healthcare, which has maintained it had followed all federal best practice guidelines in its research, has since suspended that study.

County board member Peter McLaughlin says now is the time for healing broken trust, particularly in minority communities.

“This can’t just be oil on water to calm things down. That’s not what this is about,” McLaughlin said. “This is about creating new protocols, new approaches that need to be taken.”

As for rebuilding trust, health administrators report that they met with African-American clergy and community leaders on Thursday to discuss their concerns about ketamine. They also announced several external investigations and reviews of procedures, protocols and research as it relates to the powerful sedative.