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Drug Theft in Nursing Homes a Growing Problem

A state government report in Minnesota revealed that drug theft by health care workers is so common there, it accounts for 20 percent of all abuse cases involving elderly patients.pills

The state department of health conducts regular analysis on exploitation and abuse of vulnerable, elderly residents, but this is the first time officials conducted a simultaneous analysis of so-called drug diversion incidents. From June 2013 to June 2014, researchers tallied 192 allegations of nursing home drug theft. Of those, there was proof to substantiate 27 of those incidents allegedly carried out by 14 staffers.

In a large percentage of cases, workers in nursing homes swapped over-the-counter pills for patients’ Vicodin or oxycodone. In another incident, a worker who was off-duty one day entered the facility, went to a patient’s room, lifted the bed sheet and peeled off the patient’s pain medicine patch right from his back before leaving the facility. That incident was later reported to police. 

These are patients who are often suffering chronic pain or other ailments. Aside from the fact that these kinds of actions are illegal, they also put patients at risk to be in great pain and heightened stress.

Our Orlando nursing home abuse lawyers know that these cases are by no means isolated incidents. Similar problems have occurred in Florida and throughout the country.

For example, an investigation by The News Leader in Virginia revealed that between 2007 and the beginning of 2013, there were 900 nurses disciplined publicly by the state licensing board for drug theft and use at work.

More recently in Birmingham, AL in September, a former director of a nursing home was arrested on charges that she had stolen some 1,800 hydrocodone pills. She was accused of second-degree theft of the medication from the facility. Medications weren’t being logged correctly, according to AL.com.

In Philadelphia, a nursing home nurse with a 15-year history at the facility was arrested after she was accused of stealing morphine and other drugs from patients. Officers executing a search warrant on her home reportedly found drugs that were suspected stolen from the center.

In October, a nurse in Indiana was arrested on numerous felonies for interference with medical services, neglect of a dependent and illegal possession of narcotics after officials say he swiped tablets from nursing home residents’ prescriptions. He allegedly admitted to stealing the drugs, saying he was an addict he was unable to stop.

There are a few ways nursing home residents and/or their loved ones may be able to pursue legal action in these cases.

Action against the facility could be for vicarious liability (holding an employer accountable for the wrongdoing of an employee). There might also be grounds to assert negligent hiring of staffers, negligent supervision of staff and/or patients and negligent training.

Elderly patients who are supposed to be receiving this medication deserve to have that relief. But beyond simply discomfort, there could be serious side effects that result from suddenly denying a patient a narcotic which he she has been receiving on a regular basis. Withdrawal symptoms may result in  serious complications, particularly for someone who may already have a compromised immune system.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.

Additional Resources:

Drug thefts turn up big in state report on abuse and neglect of vulnerable Minnesotans, Dec. 28, 2015, By Beatrice Dupuy, The Star Tribune

More Blog Entries:

Carmon-Rogers v. Sentara Life Care Corp. – $4 Million Nursing Home Negligence Lawsuit Goes to Trial, Dec. 10, 2015, Orlando Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog

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