Nurse Steals Painkiller from Minneapolis Hospital

MINNEAPOLIS – Officials at Immanuel St. Joseph’s Mayo Health System notified 335 patients that they may have received saline instead of the intended drug fentanyl, after discovering a nurse had tampered with the supply at the hospital.

On Feb. 25, hospital officials found empty fentanyl vials in a wastebasket. A red flag was raised when hospital employees realized the vials were not being disposed properly. An investigation was launched in the facility and eight days later, a nurse was discovered to be the suspected offender.

Dr. Greg Kutcher, the president and CEO of the hospital, said the nurse, whose name has not been released, was acting alone and was immediately suspended. Officials believe the nurse would open vials of the drug, extract the contents and substitute fentanyl for sterile saline. According to a press release from the hospital, the nurse self-administered the drug. The case has been turned over to state and federal authorities.

Kutcher said the hospital is unsure how many patients received the saline doses, and adds patients could have been given the tampered medication two weeks prior to the nurse being discovered. Currently, there is no indication that any of the patients have suffered from the substitution.

The hospital still issued 335 letters to patients who had procedures involving sedation in the affected area, inviting those concerned to contact the hospital.

Kutcher added that changes had been made to the hospital’s security measures and that there will be a more extensive review of all the policies.

Fentanyl is a painkiller considered to be more potent than morphine. It is often referred as “murder 8” and “TNT” on the street, and is often mixed with heroin or cocaine.

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