On September 18, 88-year-old Sozo Nishikawa died in Oguchi Hospital. Two days later, Nobuo Yamaki, also 88, was also found dead. Autopsies performed on the patients found that both Nishikawa and Yamaki were poisoned.
Police are now investigating whether 46 other deaths that have occurred in the hospital since July could be related. Each patient was treated on the same floor as Yamaka and Nishikawa.
"We see many people pass away due to the nature of this hospital, but had the impression that the number of those dying was increasing a bit," one hospital official said, according to the Japan Times.
Many of these bodies have already been cremated, making it next to impossible to determine if those individuals were also poisoned.
The chemical injected into the intravenous bags is believed to be a disinfectant commonly kept in nurses stations at the facility.
In the wake of the autopsies, investigators found 10 intravenous drip bags with discrete holes in their rubber seals, and police believe the culprit is likely a staff member with medical knowledge.
"It’s hard to imagine a situation that an outsider entered the nurse station and tampered [with the drip bags]," said a nurse who works at the facility, according to the Japan Times.
Adding to this theory is that Yamaka and Nishikawa both died on a holiday weekend that was lightly staffed, with the hospital locked and guarded at night.
A number of bizarre incidents have been reported at Oguchi recently. Last month, a hospital worker was injured after drinking a beverage laced with bleach. In early July, a slashed nurse’s apron was found on the premises.
The problem is not limited to Yokohama. In 2000, a male nurse in a clinic in the city of Sendai was charged with killing one patient and attempting to poison four others.