Nursing director charged with drug theft

HONESDALE – The former nursing director at Mountain Laurel Surgery Center on Fair Avenue was charged Thursday with tampering with nearly 100 vials of fentanyl, an action that prompted a health scare and resulted in several patients being tested for the HIV virus and hepatitis.

Karen Marie Feldner, 56, of Honesdale, who was fired by the center, faces felony counts including theft of fentanyl, possession of a controlled substance by misrepresentation and a misdemeanor count of tampering with records.

“This particular crime not only fed the appetite of an addict but risked the lives of patients,” Wayne County District Attorney Janine Edwards said in a statement. “It was selfish and reckless and must be prosecuted vigilantly.”

In addition to 98 tampered-with vials, a preliminary review indicated about 1,962 vials of fentanyl were missing from inventory during the time Feldner was employed there, according to arrest papers filed by Wayne County Chief Detective Peter C. Hower.

Feldner was hired November 18, 2015.

The charges came one day after Mountain Laurel told The Wayne Independent numerous vials of fentanyl were compromised when a staffer took the sedation drug from the vials and replaced it with saline.

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic prescription opioid used to sedate patients undergoing surgeries. It also is used illegally for recreational purposes.

The 98 vials that were tampered with were contained in four boxes.

The first box contained 25 glass vials with no caps; 15 of those vials were empty and 10 of the vials contained a clear liquid.

The second box contained 24 empty glass vials, 22 of which had blue/green colored caps while two vials did not have caps.

The third box contained 24 empty glass vials with no caps.

The fourth box contained 25 glass vials with no caps; 17 of those vials were empty and eight of the vials contained a clear liquid.

All of the capped vials had what appeared to be minute puncture holes in the rubber pieces covering the top of the vials, consistent with a needle pushing through the rubber, Hower wrote in arrest papers.

All of the compromised vials were tested and it was confirmed they contained saline with trace amounts of fentanyl, Mountain Laurel said.

As a result of the tampering, Mountain Laurel requested a “small group of patients” come to the center to take a blood test as a precaution.

The tests were needed to see if the patients, and derivatively their families, were exposed to either HIV or hepatitis.

Feldner, arrest papers state, also consented to a blood test whose results indicate she does not have the HIV virus or hepatitis.

Mountain Laurel has said it does not believe any of the patients were placed at risk.

Feldner also is accused of altering documents and forging signatures at the center, obtaining fentanyl through misrepresentation and deception by claiming to have the authority from her employer to obtain it.

Edwards said, “Fentanyl is not just another opioid. It is highly addictive and potentially lethal.”

The DA credited the work of Hower and the Drug Enforcement Agency “to ensure not only that criminal charges were filed by also having a concern for the potential safety of others.”

Feldner was arraigned before Magisterial District Judge Linus Myers and released on $75,000 unsecured bail.

She is scheduled to appear in Central Court on Wednesday at 9 a.m.

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