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Nurse target of police probe

Hospital employee allegedly tampered with pain medication

Paul Shockley

A nurse with The Memorial Hospital suspected of tampering with patients’ pain medication will be the subject of a Craig Police Department criminal investigation.

“We haven’t done anything with it at this point,” said Walt Vanatta, Craig police chief, adding that administrative Sgt. Bill Leonard would handle the probe.

Vanatta said the hospital notified his department Oct. 31 of the alleged drug tampering, which were unspecified acts that occurred about “four of five weeks ago,” he said.

“They’ve already pursued administrative measures, and this is not high on the priority list,” the chief added.

Police are withholding the nurse’s name.

Randy Phelps, TMH administrator, declined to comment on the nurse’s employment status at the hospital, although a news release distributed Wednesday by TMH states “the employee was removed from contact with the hospital and appropriate licensing authorities have been notified.”

“As soon as the suspicion of tampering was recognized, officials of the hospital took immediate steps to investigate the matter,” according to the hospital. “An employee voluntarily confessed to tampering with supplies of narcotic analgesics.”

The release states that all patients believed by the hospital to have received “less than prescribed amounts” of the intense pain-killing medication have been contacted. The hospital has since introduced measures to improve its drug security systems, according to the release.

Pam Thompson, TMH public relations director, would not go into specifics on the new drug security steps.

The painkiller in question is administered to patients intravenously, or injected into a muscle, Phelps said.

Phelps, when asked specifically how many patients were affected, said “less than five.”

He declined to comment on the specific “tampering” nature of the alleged act or acts, the amount of drugs involved, or the period of time in which the tampering occurred.

“That is something the Craig Police Department is investigating,” Phelps said.

The nurse isn’t suspected of personal use of the painkillers while on the job, Phelps said.

“We don’t have any evidence to suggest that,” he said, adding the nurse has worked at the hospital for more than one year.

Officials with the Colorado Board of Nursing have been contacted in the case, as well as the federal Drug Enforcement Administration in Denver, Phelps said.

Pat Uris, the state’s nursing board director, said Wednesday she could not confirm or deny contact with the Craig hospital on the case.

However, Bill Weinman, spokesman for the DEA’s Denver office, said Wednesday that agents weren’t aware of the incident.

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


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