Drug abuse and theft prevalent in upstate nursing homes

Spartanburg Herald had an article about the emergence of nurses in nursing homes stealing narcotics from residents who need them.  It is shocking that this could happen so often without anyone at the nursing home being aware.  Do they take these drugs while providing care?  That would explain all the neglect and negligence that seems to exist in some of the homes mentioned such as Magnolia Manor and Magnolia Place--both are owned and operated by the national for profit chain of THI and Fundamental Long Term Care Companies which previously ran IHS into bankruptcy.  Maybe the nursing homes should initiate random drug tests of their employees to protect the residents.

More than 650 nurses--one out of every 100 licensed nurses in Spartanburg, Cherokee and Union counties has been disciplined by the state Board of Nursing for a drug-related offense. Half of them stole prescription painkillers from hospitals, doctor's offices and nursing homes. This doesn't even count the CNAs who ar enot licensed health care providers.

The nurses have faced disciplinary action for offenses including stealing drugs, forging prescriptions, testing positive on drug screens or coming to work impaired at employers including Spartanburg Regional Medical Center and Mary Black Memorial Hospital. Many returned to work after an evaluation and completing, when deemed necessary, mandatory treatment with the S.C. Recovering Professionals Program, or RPP.  These numbers do not reflect the nurses who did not get caught or the ones where the emnployer looked the other way.

Frank Sheheen, RPP director, said most medical professionals referred to the program didn't steal medications just once, and many program participants were referred there before disciplinary action was taken. There are "absolutely" more medical professionals in the state "in need of treatment who aren't getting it," he said. "If they get caught stealing once, how many times have they been stealing?" he asked. "That's just the one time they got caught."

Drug abuse has increased over the past decade, and the percentage of medical professionals who are addicted to drugs is about 2 percent higher than in the general population, Sheheen said.

Many nurses committed violations that placed proper patient care in jeopardy. In more than one case, nurses came to work impaired from alcohol or medications such as Demerol. One nurse, who was employed as a staff nurse at Magnolia Manor, was suspected of removing Duragesic patches from nursing home patients and reporting to work impaired.

Another nurse admitted to stealing prescription narcotics from Allen Bennett Memorial Hospital in Greer on four occasions. He also admitted that  when he was employed at Magnolia Place nursing home, he stole OxyContin by opening pill packages and replacing the white OxyContin tablets with other white-colored pills, according to board records.

Board records show one nurse admitted to taking multiple drugs from Allen Bennett, including Demerol, Dilaudid and Lortab. The next year, she was fired from Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System, where she had gained employment, for taking a patient's medication and administering it to herself while on duty. She submitted to a drug screen and tested positive for morphine.

Thom Berry, spokesman for the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, has seen all types of drug cases involving medical professionals across the state. Some cases clearly endanger the patient's quality of treatment if they're not receiving the appropriate amount of painkillers, he said.