Over 700 Patients Potentially Affected by Opioid-Stealing Technician

NOVEMBER 01, 2016
Ryan Marotta, Assistant Editor
A hospital in Des Moines, Iowa, has notified relevant patients that a former employee may have stolen opioid painkillers intended for them.
 
From August 26 to October 7, an unnamed pharmacy technician at Unity Point Methodist Medical Center allegedly used a syringe to replace solutions of fentanyl with saline, leaving as many as 731 patients with either diluted medication or nothing but saltwater. The technician had access to the portable medication carts where the solutions were stored.
 
The problem first came to light on October 6 when another staff member noticed that something was wrong and alerted a hospital supervisor. Within 24 hours, Unity Point placed the employee on leave and contacted the DEA, the Iowa Board of Pharmacy (IBOP), the Iowa Department of Inspection and Appeals, and the Des Moines Police Department for their help with an investigation.
 
“Unity Point Health-Des Moines has clear clinical guidelines and policies surrounding the safe handling, dispensing and disposal of narcotics,” Unity Point said in a statement. “We are proud of our staff members on the floors that noticed something suspicious and immediately reported it.”
 
Following his departure, the employee canceled his technician registration with the IBOP, according to IBOP executive director Andrew Funk. Additionally, a Unity Point representative confirmed that the technician is no longer employed by the hospital.
 
While no patients were found to have gone completely without painkillers, all patients who were potentially affected were notified of the theft. Because syringes were used to replace the fentanyl solution, the patients were also offered an HIV test; however, officials emphasized that these tests were solely a precaution, and that affected patients face no risk of HIV contraction from the employee’s actions.
 
“We deeply regret the actions of one of our employees, and apologize for any uncertainty or anxiety this may cause for patients and their families that put their trust in us,” Unity Point stated. “Please know our first concern is always the health, safety and privacy of our patients. We are working diligently to make sure patients that may have been affected are informed, get their questions answered and receive the follow-up care they may want in order to decrease their worry.”
 

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