Archive for Friday, September 3, 2010

No patients received diluted drugs, Kan. nursing home says

September 3, 2010

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— A Kansas nursing home where a nurse with a history of drug abuse allegedly diluted morphine said Thursday that no patients actually got the tampered medicine.

Deborah J. Riggs of Goddard was charged Wednesday in a 10-count indictment with tampering with a consumer product and adulteration of drugs. The 55-year-old nurse is accused of diluting the morphine solutions intended for five patients at the Halstead Health and Rehabilitation Center.

Riggs has a history of convictions and nursing-license suspensions stemming from previous allegations of mismanaging or stealing controlled substances.

“The indictment alleges Riggs’ actions were taken with reckless disregard for and extreme indifference to the risk that another person would be placed in danger of death or bodily injury,” U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said in a statement.

Her public defender, Marilyn Trubey, was out of the office Thursday. Riggs’ phone was disconnected.

Lee Eaton, the nursing home’s regional manager, said the affected drugs in the most recent case were taken from a seldom-used overflow area. Facility officials noticed broken seals on the bottles and sent the drugs for testing.

The facility initiated the investigation and also alerted federal authorities, Eaton said.

“We are also the ones that fully cooperated with them … or this lady would still be working in Kansas nursing homes,” he said.

Mitzi McFatrick, executive director of Kansas Advocates for Better Care, said the Legislature passed a bill at the last session expanding criminal background checks and records for medical professionals. An interim legislative committee is expected to consider how to modify the regulations later this month.

Riggs worked as a registered nurse for the Halstead facility from March 2008 until this past March. In December she became a narcotics charge nurse and was given keys to the cabinet where narcotic medications were stored, according to the indictment.

The indictment alleges she removed about 30 to 60 percent of the contents from bottles of a morphine-based solution and replaced it with another unspecified substance.

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