Drug misappropriation is alive and well with all healthcare workers. New England also has a huge problem with opioid abuse. About 5 years ago a medical technician systematically diverted IV opioids and caused a multi-state outbreak of Hepatitis C. Just this week an MD was suspended for diverting hydromorphone . See “Institutional Diversion, Detection and Response”, a publication of the National Council on State Boards of Nursing for more information.
January 29, 2017 – 3:15pm
MONTREAL — Fentanyl, the powerful opioid currently preoccupying public health authorities, isn’t just a problem on the streets. About a dozen Quebec nurses have been temporarily suspended over the last decade for stealing quantities of the drug from the workplace, says a Canadian Press analysis of the Quebec Order of Nurses’ disciplinary council decisions.
While 12 suspensions were handed out between 2006 and 2016, the actual number of thefts was much higher, since most cases were only detected after multiple incidents that went on for months or even years, the documents show.
In the most severe cases, patients were deprived of their medication by nurses who replaced the fentanyl in pills or drips with water or an intravenous saline solution.
“Unfortunately, drug appropriation and substitution by other substances are too frequent at this time,” the disciplinary council wrote in a 2012 decision.
“When a nurse appropriates these medicines and, in addition, substitutes water for this medication, the patient does not receive the medicine to which they are entitled and the suffering continues.”
In some cases, nurses consumed the stolen drugs on the job, with one admitting to having injected herself up to three times in a single work shift.
Male nurses were disproportionately represented, accounting for 50 per cent of the suspensions while making up only 10 per cent of the order’s membership.
The nurses used different methods to outwit the security measures in place in order to obtain the fentanyl, an opioid 50 to 100 times more powerful than heroin.
Those included altering patient registries, writing false prescriptions, retrieving discarded partially-used doses and falsifying signatures.
The nurses’ suspensions ranged from six months to three years. None were permanently banned from the profession.