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Did Negligence Let RN Steal Patients' Pain Meds?

Class action suit says hospital should have prevented it.

Published: July 11, 2014

Britte Smith accused nurseThree former surgical patients have filed a class action suit against an Indiana hospital, claiming negligence let a nurse allegedly steal their pain medication and substitute saline solution.

Britte E. Smith, RN, who worked at Parkview Whitley Hospital in Columbia City, was arrested last month, charged with theft and possession of narcotics and interference with medical services. Police say Ms. Smith regularly accessed Pyxis machines in both the medical surgery and constant care units, procuring hydromorphone HCL "for purposes other than patient care."

Once it became suspicious, the hospital called the Indiana State Police, which conducted a 2-month investigation before arresting Ms. Smith, 40. When the arrest was announced, Scott Gabriel, the hospital president, released a statement saying, "Upon learning the results of our thorough investigation, I promptly contacted patients potentially impacted by the actions of the accused and shared with them our findings. I wanted to personally inform anyone potentially impacted by these actions that we have no reason to believe their health was compromised."

But 3 of those patients sued the hospital this week, charging that it negligently failed to monitor who was taking the drugs and how much was being taken. "Smith's access records to the medications kept by Pyxis revealed highly elevated access for Hydromorphone HCL, beyond that typical of other nurses using Pyxis," says the complaint. Ms. Smith, who is free on $10,000 bond, is not a defendant in the suit.

Daniel Vanderpool, who represents the patients, did not return a call by Outpatient Surgery Magazine. A spokesperson said the hospital had no comment regarding the suit.

Jim Burger

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