Authorities: Local nurse stole pain medication from terminal cancer patient

This is an alarming case if the news story is accurate. The nurse allegedly stole hydromorphone from a hospice patient because she had a sore neck and, when questioned, she justified her actions by stating that nothing could be done to save the patient. 
This case is similar to many others in that the diversion was apparently only discovered after the nurse was found passed out in her car with a bag of hydromorphone nearby. Interestingly, the nurse also allegedly had a meth lab in her home.
There are certain types of care settings that give healthcare personnel long periods of unsupervised access to very powerful drugs, and they often involve care of some extremely vulnerable patients. Hospice is one of those settings. We would like to think that healthcare personnel in hospice or any setting could be trusted to do the right thing, but that isn’t always true. Addiction and substance use disorders can lead otherwise caring providers to deny patients the medications they need. 
Hospice nurses need to be well-educated on diversion, as the nurse who relieves a diverting nurse is often in the best position to discover diversion. Families need to be educated as well to be alert to signs that their loved one’s pain level has escalated or is refractory to the medication they are receiving. This can be done without alarming family members, as there may be other reasons for therapeutic failure. 
This case also raises the question of whether care providers in this or similar settings need additional monitoring, such as random drug screening. – Kim New

By Bob Kalinowski
ASHLEY — Authorities charged a local hospice nurse Wednesday based on accusations she stole powerful pain medication from a dying cancer patient and investigators say they discovered a suspected methamphetamine lab when they showed up at her Ashley home to arrest her.
Andrea Gosiewski told authorities she swiped the medication because no medicine could save the man from his impending death and she had a sore neck, according to charges filed by narcotics officers for the state Attorney General’s office.
Gosiewski was arraigned Wednesday afternoon in Kingston by Magisterial District Paul Roberts, who ordered the 39-year-old jailed in the Luzerne County Correctional Facility in lieu of $100,000 cash bail.
Meanwhile, crews were on the scene of what they described as a suspected methamphetamine lab at 25 Preston St. in Ashley, which is owned by Gosiewski and where she was taken into custody.
Gosiewski is charged with unlawfully obtaining a controlled substance, theft, receiving stolen property and falsifying medical records. Charges for the suspected meth lab are pending the result of the investigation, authorities said.
Investigators say they uncovered the medication theft after police found Gosiewski passed out Monday in a vehicle outside Rite-Aid in Edwardsville with a bag of liquid hydromorphone on her lap and a used syringe on the floor.
The powerful opioid, used to treat extreme pain, was prescribed to the patient in Gosiewski’s care, authorities said.
An investigation revealed Gosiewski stole the patient’s medication at least five times while working for Erwine Home Health Care and Hospice, authorities said.
She used the drug to get high herself, police say, but claimed in the patient’s medical records that she discarded the leftover medication, which is described as extremely strong and highly addictive.
Erwine Home Health Care issued a statement late Wednesday indicating it had terminated Gosiewski.
“Law enforcement has advised us that a registered nurse was arrested for controlled substances violations. Erwine Home Health and Hospice has terminated the registered nurse’s employment, instituted our own internal review and will continue to work with law enforcement concerning this matter. As this is both a law enforcement and personnel matter, no further information can be shared at this time,” according to the statement.
Gosiewski has been a registered nurse in Pennsylvania since December 2003, according to records from the Pennsylvania Department of State.
She last renewed her license in April 2015. As of Wednesday afternoon, her license remained active.
Investigators from the Attorney General’s office say Gosiewski admitted to stealing the pain medication from the patient.
She told investigators the patient “has terminal leukemia and is in decline,” arrest papers say.
“In her belief, there is no medicine that will ‘save’ him,” investigators wrote in the criminal complaint. “R.N. Gosiewski stated that she needed the medicine because she has a sore back and neck.”
Published by: The Citizens Voice

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