Nurse put clients’ pain patches in his mouth
MINNEAPOLIS -- As part of a yearlong scheme to satisfy his addiction, a nursing home nurse in northwestern Minnesota routinely peeled powerful pain patches off the backs of mentally deficient residents, then affixed the patches to his tongue befo...
MINNEAPOLIS - As part of a yearlong scheme to satisfy his addiction, a nursing home nurse in northwestern Minnesota routinely peeled powerful pain patches off the backs of mentally deficient residents, then affixed the patches to his tongue before sticking them back on the clients, according to a state investigation.
Health Department investigators, in a report released this week, said the licensed practical nurse at Villa St. Vincent in Crookston stole painkillers from 10 residents until being caught this past spring, leading to police involvement and the employee’s immediate firing.
The nurse “removed ... fentanyl patches from (three) residents’ back, placed the patches on (his) tongue for approximately one hour and replaced the patches on the residents,” investigators said in the report.
The nurse admitted to carrying out this routine three to four times a week as well as stealing at least 10 tablets of narcotics “every week for at least a year,” the report continued.
The three patients on fentanyl were described in the report as having “severe cognitive defects and an inability to communicate their needs.” The report added that the health effects of having the patches temporarily removed from the three residents “could not be determined.”
The roster of drugs the nurse stole, investigators continued, included tramadol, Tylenol No. 3 and Percocet. During police questioning, he had 18 stolen pills on him, the report noted. A urine test he took came back positive for opiates and oxycodone.
Fentanyl is a potent narcotic analgesic used to supplement general anesthesia or to treat long-term or chronic pain requiring continuous relief. The opium-based medication is seldom used outside of hospitals because it is powerful and fast-acting. It’s considered 80 times stronger than morphine and highly addictive.
When abused, fentanyl is known to be fatal. In January, 25-year-old Paul D. Mrosla of Carlton overdosed on a fentanyl patch he bought illegally from an acquaintance. Also, since 2007, two bodybuilders - one in Minnesota and another in South Dakota - died of fentanyl overdoses by using patches they had acquired through third parties.
In the Crookston case, the public release of information from the Health Department investigation did not disclose the nurse’s identity. Messages were left Friday with the Crookston police, the Polk County attorney’s office and nursing home officials seeking further information about the thefts.
The disclosed portion of the report blames the nurse for what it called “financial exploitation.”
There is conflicting information, however, about whether the nursing home shoulders any of the blame.
In one instance, the report said the facility “had policies in procedures in place to govern the handling and control of narcotic medications.” But the department also said that the consulting pharmacist lacked the proper safeguards to ensure the proper tracking of narcotics.
The pharmacist acknowledged that the home lacked “a system to track all narcotic medications,” the Health Department report read.
Villa St. Vincent is operated by the Duluth-based Benedictine Health System, a nonprofit Catholic senior care provider with facilities in 40 communities in Minnesota, Illinois, Missouri, North Dakota and South Dakota. It is sponsored by the Benedictine sisters of St. Scholastica Monastery in Duluth.