Health Notes: State urges vigilance to stop drug thefts from health-care facilitiesWhen staff members at Cook County North Shore Hospital and Care Center noticed in 2010 that some residents were missing fentanyl pain patches, the Grand Marais nursing home launched an investigation. The result: A 20-year-old former employee pleaded guilty Aug. 20 to two felony theft charges.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
When staff members at Cook County North Shore Hospital and Care Center noticed in 2010 that some residents were missing fentanyl pain patches, the Grand Marais nursing home launched an investigation. The result: A 20-year-old former employee pleaded guilty Aug. 20 to two felony theft charges.
The young woman admitted to police that she had taken the patches from at least two residents, first from the trash and then from the patients themselves.
It’s a small example of a trend that’s getting noticed: Prescription drug thefts from health-care institutions are on the increase in Minnesota.
The Minnesota Department of Health announced a road map and tool kit this month designed to “improve health care providers’ controlled substance storage and security, procurement, prescribing, preparation and dispensing,” a news release announced.
The effort came out of a coalition formed by the health department and the Minnesota Hospital Association in May 2011 to target prescription drug theft.
In its news release, the health department noted that prescription drug thefts from Minnesota health-care facilities increased from 16 in 2006 to 52 in 2010. (Retail pharmacy thefts aren’t included in the numbers.)
The road map is a collection of about 100 best practices for preventing and responding to prescription drug thefts, the news release said. They include such things as camera surveillance in high-risk areas and using bar codes for tracking.
Marla Halvorson, human relations director for St. Luke’s hospital, said the recommendations have 11 major components, all of which the hospital already has implemented.
“We’re always making sure we’re safeguarding these drugs that might be attractive to people,” she said.
Essentia Health is reviewing the recommendations, spokeswoman Kim Kaiser said.
“Preventing the theft of controlled substances is something we take very seriously,” she said. “We are using this new ‘road map’ developed by the Minnesota Hospital Association and other groups to see where we can further enhance our security practices.”