Hearing for former nurse delayed

Deputy district attorney to be out of town, defense attorney needs more time

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A plea hearing for a former Craig nurse accused of stealing and consuming patients' pain medication at The Memorial Hospital that was scheduled for Monday has been delayed.

Laurel Johnson, 39, had been set Monday for "entry of a deferred judgement plea," but a motion filed by the deputy district attorney and an attorney representing Johnson last week requested more time.

Judge Michael O'Hara approved the motion, but a new date had not been set as of Friday morning.

The delay was requested with Deputy District Attorney Bonnie Roesink scheduled to be out of town Monday, while Johnson's attorney requested more time to review the case, according to court documents.

Johnson was to enter a plea according to a "disposition" reached between both sides in the case.

Roesink Thursday said she could not comment on the case's disposition until Johnson pleads.

Johnson is charged with two counts of class-four felony possession of a schedule II controlled substance, two counts of class-five felony unlawful use of a schedule II controlled substance, class-three misdemeanor theft and misdemeanor third-degree assault.

The nurse is accused of stealing supplies of morphine and Demerol from a lock-box in the facility's surgical unit.

Several patients coming out of surgeries in late August were observed "having problems with pain management," while hospital staff told investigators that replacing the narcotics with saline could have caused infections with patients and ultimately endangered lives, court documents allege.

TMH has said that all patients thought to have received "less than prescribed amounts" of the narcotics have been informed of the incident.

Administrator Randy Phelps has put the number of affected patients at "less than five."

Johnson was removed from contact with patients in September, but wasn't fired by the hospital until January.

Paul Shockley can be reached at 824-7031 or at pshockley@craigdailypress.com.

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