Former Ecumen Lakeshore nurse accused of stealing painkillersA one-time nurse allegedly stole hundreds of painkillers that were intended for nearly three dozen Duluth nursing home residents, leaving at least one of them in “extreme pain,” according to a newly released state investigation.
By: Paul Walsh , Minneapolis Star Tribune
A one-time nurse allegedly stole hundreds of painkillers that were intended for nearly three dozen Duluth nursing home residents, leaving at least one of them in “extreme pain,” according to a newly released state investigation.
The thefts of the powerful narcotic oxycodone and other drugs came even though the facility, Ecumen Lakeshore, had instructed the nurse on administering and tracking controlled substances, said the Health Department report, released Wednesday.
The thefts totaled 764 pills meant for 34 residents at Ecumen’s The Fountains short-term rehabilitation center over a five-month period. The stealing ended once the resident who didn’t receive her oxycodone reported in late April that she was left “having extreme pain” without the medication, the report read.
The nurse, who worked at Ecumen Lakeshore for four years, was quickly suspended and quit after being confronted by facility officials about why she signed out oxycodone three times in one shift without giving the drug to the resident. She also refused to cooperate with Health Department investigators.
The nursing home notified police of the thefts in mid-May. A police spokesman was checking Thursday on whether a criminal case was pursued.
“The former employee’s actions are a gross violation of everything we stand for at Ecumen and the nursing profession stands for,” spokesman Eric Schubert said Thursday. “We’re sorry that this incident occurred, and we thank the patient who helped us uncover the thefts.”
The report noted that the stolen painkillers were to be given to the residents on an “as needed” basis at a resident’s request. Schubert said that Ecumen determined that no scheduled pain medications were stolen.
As is the Health Department’s practice, the identities of the nurse and residents were not disclosed.
The number of reported drug thefts at Minnesota hospitals and nursing homes has more than doubled since 2005, according to a report this spring from a coalition of law enforcement and health officials created after numerous alarming incidents last year.
Their report found 250 cases of prescription drugs being stolen or reported missing at Minnesota health-care facilities from 2005 to 2011. The trend reflects what experts say is a nationwide surge of prescription drug abuse — in many cases by the very people entrusted with caring for patients.