NBC2 Investigators: Drug-stealing nurses under-reported to law enforcement

“Here is an article that features commentary by John Burke, IHFDA President and Cofounder.  IHFDA has been in the news quite a bit lately!” -Kim New

By David Hodges

FORT MYERS – Nurses stealing drugs from hospitals is widely under-reported, according to law enforcement experts who focus on the topic.

The NBC2 Investigators are digging deeper into the problem after a former Lee Memorial Hospital nurse was arrested in early September for diverting drugs.

According to John Burke, president of the International Health Facility Diversion Association, hospitals often don’t report drug diversion to law enforcement.

“It happens all the time, unfortunately,” Burke said.

Burke investigated drug theft at hospitals across Ohio and said as a member of a couple of different law enforcement agencies, he usually arrested a nurse a week for drug diversion. He said using those numbers, he guesses tens of thousands are likely diverting drugs across the country.

“About 37,000 a year are probably likely,” Burke said. “That’s my best guess.”

In Florida, nurses caught stealing drugs often avoid criminal investigations or inquiries from the Department of Health by getting referred to the Intervention Project for Nurses. But that doesn’t always work according to plan, like in the case of Derrick Anderson.

The NBC2 Investigators previously reported on Anderson and other nurses accused of stealing drugs, but new records obtained by NBC2 show that after Anderson was suspected of diverting drugs at Gulf Coast Medical Center, the Lee Memorial Health System launched an internal investigation into the matter. Burke said this should be standard procedure at most hospitals.

“What we suggest is what we call a drug diversion team,” Burke said.

But according to Department of Health records, it was almost three months after Anderson was fired that the Lee County Sheriff’s Office was notified and records show they were not involved in the investigation.

However, in the case of Alex Rodriguez, hospital investigators notified the Lee County Sheriff’s Office about possible drug theft which lead to more than a hundred charges for the nurse.

“You don’t just call when there’s thousands of pills missing, you call when a few doses are missing,” Burke said.

Anderson was only reported to law enforcement after he failed to report to rehab. He worked at three SWFL hospitals before his license was ultimately revoked by the Department of Health.

In a statement, Lee Memorial Health Systems Spokesperson Mary Briggs wrote, “Lee Memorial Health System maintains a highly visible patient safety program that quickly flags unusual activity. In this case, the individual in question was employed for only a few weeks before we launched an investigation which resulted in termination.”

In the case of Anderson, internal investigators used the drug dispersal program called Pyxis to track when Anderson accessed controlled substances such as hydromorphone.

According to hospital records, Derrick Anderson frequently dispensed pain medication without following patient assessment protocol. On several other occasions, he did not properly record use of narcotics.

Burke said even minor cases can sometimes turn into large discoveries.

“A couple pills may turn into someone who’s been diverting for years and is highly addicted,” Burke said.

Published by: NBC-2.com

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