April 19, 2024

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A travel nurse leaves fears of hospital drug tampering across 3 states | Nation

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Health and fitness officers in at least a few states are investigating a journey nurse suspected of tampering with and potentially contaminating vials and syringes of opioid painkillers in two hospitals, then returning the vials to medicine cabinets the place they could be unknowingly provided to patients.

1 hundred individuals who may have been exposed to contaminated syringes final calendar year at Johnson City Healthcare Center in Tennessee were being urged to get examined for hepatitis and HIV, in accordance to state documents obtained by KHN through a public information ask for.

The files also reveal that Raleigh Common Clinic in West Virginia this yr gave vials to legislation enforcement to examination for proof of tampering. These benefits have not been designed public.

The journey nurse, Jacqueline Brewster, 52, of Belfry, Kentucky, was arrested by her community sheriff’s office environment on undisclosed costs Tuesday in reaction to a fugitive warrant from Washington County, Tennessee, in which the allegations of tampering commenced, according to jail and courtroom documents. Brewster was introduced Wednesday with orders to report to Tennessee within 10 days.

“I didn’t run absent from something,” Brewster mentioned in court docket. “I do not know how I’m a fugitive.”

According to files filed by Tennessee and West Virginia overall health authorities with their respective nursing boards, Brewster is suspected of repeatedly opening hospital medication cabinets to withdraw vials or syringes of an opioid painkiller, Dilaudid, allegedly removing some of the drug to either use or steal, and then returning the vials or syringes, quite possibly after gluing a cap again on. The CEO of one of the afflicted medical center systems alleged in an job interview with KHN that the travel nurse extra a further liquid to syringes ⁠— perhaps in an endeavor to cover her tracks.

The allegations in opposition to Brewster, which have not been previously described, come at a time when the coronavirus pandemic pressured several U.S. hospitals to count extra than ever on vacation nurses, who normally cross point out lines to operate months-very long stints in shorter-staffed hospitals. As the virus flooded hospitals with people and worsened nursing shortages, numerous hospitals turned to vacation nurses to fill the gaps, generally at a radically greater charge.

But “desperation” to recruit nurses also exacerbated current flaws in the govt infrastructure supposed to keep nurses accountable, stated John Benson, co-founder of Verisys, a details management enterprise that researches likely staff for health and fitness care methods.

Nurses and other medical gurus are accredited, investigated, and disciplined at the state amount. But investigators do not talk well across state strains, Benson said, so as additional nurses started to vacation throughout the pandemic, it grew to become less complicated to “outrun” investigations by finding a new job in another condition extensive before allegations of wrongdoing grew to become public.

“The procedure was damaged just before COVID,” Benson stated. “It just acquired more damaged for the duration of COVID.”

Brewster, a registered nurse, has been certified in Kentucky considering that 2004 and retains a license permitting her to perform in additional than 30 states that participate in the Nurse Licensure Compact. Right after she was accused of tampering at Raleigh Typical previous thirty day period, the West Virginia nursing board suspended Brewster’s ability to apply in the condition. Times afterwards, Tennessee overall health officers acted on a complaint they acquired from Johnson Metropolis Medical Middle previous July, launching a specialist disciplinary proceeding that could revoke Brewster’s ability to function in that condition later on this 12 months.

As of Wednesday, Brewster’s multistate license was “under investigation” in Kentucky but in any other case unrestricted, which means she could nevertheless function as a nurse in most of the state. It is mysterious wherever else Brewster may possibly have worked as a vacation nurse, together with in the seven months soon after she was initial accused of tampering in Tennessee.

Brewster could not be reached for remark and it is unclear no matter if she has an legal professional. A Knoxville law firm stated as Brewster’s attorney in records filed with the Tennessee Board of Nursing denied symbolizing the nurse.

A single healthcare facility that turned greatly dependent on travel nurses in the course of the pandemic was Johnson City Health-related Center. Ballad Health and fitness, which owns the clinic, said previous summer months the pandemic elevated the amount of vacation nurses the business utilized from about 150 to 400.

Brewster was amongst those people employed. She was employed by Jackson Nurse Experts, a journey nurse business in Orlando, Florida, and labored at the Johnson Town Healthcare Centre for three months ahead of the alleged tampering was discovered, according to the records.

Ballad Wellbeing CEO Alan Levine instructed KHN one more nurse flagged a suspicious vial in the hospital’s professional medical cupboard, and an inner investigation joined the vial to Brewster.

“She was removing the Dilaudid and changing it with an additional substance that looked very clear like Dilaudid, and replacing the vials in the Omnicell program,” Levine mentioned. “One of our other nurses found that some thing appeared various in one of the vials and notified the pharmacy right away.”

Ballad Wellness fired Brewster and alerted legislation enforcement and the Tennessee Office of Well being, in accordance to a assertion from the organization. It despatched 5 Dilaudid syringes to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s crime lab, which verified the amount of medication in just was “inconsistent with the manufacturer’s label,” in accordance to the nursing board files.

The healthcare facility reported that it also tried to give Brewster a drug take a look at. She to begin with furnished an inadequate urine sample, the files allege, and then soon after supplying a second sample Brewster “accused the lab technician of currently being corrupt,” grabbed the sample out of his hand, and dumped it down the sink.

“This is my *** [sic],” Brewster claimed as she took again the sample, according to the documents.

The Tennessee Section of Wellbeing filed the qualified disciplinary circumstance against Brewster with the Board of Nursing on March 31. She is scheduled to surface Aug. 24 at a board listening to and threats dropping her nursing license.

At some position, soon after she was fired from Johnson Metropolis Health care Center, Brewster started to do the job at Raleigh Basic, an unrelated hospital about 120 miles to the north in Beckley, West Virginia.

Previous thirty day period, the clinic reported to the West Virginia nursing board that Dilaudid vials in its medication cupboards appeared to have been tampered with, according to a board buy suspending Brewster’s license. Some vials had been lacking tops and other people experienced tops marked with a residue that “looked like glue,” the board alleges.

The moment once again, an interior investigation “led directly” to Brewster, according to the board buy.

Raleigh Typical “disposed of a lot of vials of Dilaudid in buy to secure patients from contamination” and furnished some vials to legislation enforcement for testing. Results have not been disclosed.

Jackson Nurse Experts did not answer to requests for remark. It is unclear no matter whether Brewster nonetheless is effective for the firm.

Raleigh Basic Healthcare facility in West Virginia unveiled a statement that it was even now investigating Brewster and cooperating with authorities but declined to reply inquiries about the scenario.

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