Good Samaritan Hospital leaders said this week they implemented new narcotics safeguards after a former nurse was suspected of stealing drugs and possibly infecting at least two patients with hepatitis C.
Chris Bredeson, Good Samaritan Hospital president and chief operating officer, spoke with The News Tribune on Tuesday about narcotics oversight at the hospital.
Most narcotics are dispensed through machines throughout the hospital, and pharmacy leaders monitor the number of drugs withdrawn and by whom, Bredeson said.
"We get monthly reports from our pharmacy leaders who control the medication-dispensing machines," he said. "If there's a nurse that has higher than normal utilization of narcotics, they may be flagged."
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That might lead to an audit.
But under previous accounting protocols, pharmacy leaders "might not have seen before if someone was going to multiple machines" and withdrawing more drugs than appropriate, he said.
MultiCare now has changed those accounting methods in a way Bredeson thinks would have made a difference in the case of the accused nurse by making an employee's total withdrawals more obvious.
"I think it would have helped us have a clue earlier," he said. "When we go back and run the reports retroactively ... she would have shown up in December if we had run these the other way."
He also said that audits now will be done faster and be more in-depth when a nurse does get flagged.
Bredeson also said that MultiCare started a Controlled Substance Diversion Prevention Program Committee last year before the allegations against the nurse came to light.
"Obviously, this will help them prioritize some of their work," he said.
Hospital leaders announced Monday that 2,600 patients who might have interacted with the former emergency room nurse should get tested.
Potentially affected patients were sent letters, and the hospital said patients who do not get a letter this week are not at risk.
It's not clear how the two infected patients contracted the disease, which is treatable.
The nurse allegedly admitted to "diverting" injectable narcotics and was "surprised" to learn that she tested positive for hepatitis C, the hospital said.