Prosecutors charge former Scottsdale hospital employee with poisoning

The suspect, Nelson Ramos, is accused of adding an antiseptic surgical scrub into a coworker's coffee.
Published: May. 24, 2023 at 6:00 AM MST|Updated: May. 24, 2023 at 9:52 PM MST
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SCOTTSDALE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - Scottsdale city prosecutors have charged a former employee of HonorHealth with adding a poisonous substance to a drink belonging to someone working in a hospital operating room. The incident occurred in January at the HonorHealth Scottsdale Shea Medical Center.

The suspect, Nelson Ramos, was formally charged in April. He was an anesthesia tech. A spokesperson for HonorHealth said the company has fully cooperated with law enforcement, and the employee in question no longer works for HonorHealth.

Scottsdale Police were called to the hospital on Jan. 9 after a medical device representative complained of a burning sensation in his mouth, throat and stomach after sipping his coffee. “I felt a burning sensation. Then I popped the cap, smelled it, and it smelled like bleach,” said Jeffrey Maxwell, who is not an employee of the hospital, but routinely sits in on surgeries to assist surgeons with the medical devices Maxwell sells.

Maxwell says he had put his coffee drink on a shelf in a hallway outside the operating room. Then, between surgeries, he stepped out of the OR to take a sip. That’s when he says he realized someone had tampered with his drink. “They told me to rush to the ER because there was a chemical in that drink. But my patient was under and we couldn’t compromise that, so I had to go finish the surgery,” said Maxwell.

When he got to the emergency room, he said hospital officials called the police. They looked at the surveillance video from the hallway. “Once Scottsdale PD showed up, I was made aware that there was footage of an individual putting stuff in my drink,” said Maxwell.

According to the police report, Ramos later admitted to pouring a chemical into the coffee. He claimed it was a prank. But Maxwell says the two are not friendly. Several months before, Maxwell said he had an altercation with Ramos outside the operating room. The police report states that the liquid Ramos added to the coffee is called Betasept. It is an antiseptic surgical scrub, not intended for internal consumption.

Maxwell says he felt the effects for weeks. “I would say I had the most two weeks of uncomfortable stomach pains. You can’t eat. The acid reflux was extremely bad, and then that would be worse because it actually kept burning,” said Maxwell.

Arizona’s Family Investigates visited Ramos’s home. Ramos said he was traveling back to Arizona from California through a Ring doorbell and would call when he got home. We did not hear from him.

Maxwell says he learned that Ramos attempted to get a job as an anesthesia tech at another hospital after the incident. And Maxwell worries about potential future health effects from drinking the Betasept. “What’s going to happen in 10, 15, 20 years from now? I have no clue. I could have stomach cancer in 10 years. No clue. That’s the problem,” said Maxwell.