Health officials in three states are investigating a visiting nurse suspected of smuggling and contaminating bottles and syringes of opioid painkillers in two hospitals, and then returning them to bottles in medical rooms that can be given to patients without their knowledge.
One hundred patients diagnosed with syringes sealed last year at Johnson City Medical Center in Tennessee were required to be tested for hepatitis and HIV, according to state documents obtained by KHN. through a public document application.
Documents were also revealed at Raleigh General Hospital in West Virginia this year that gave cups to law enforcement to test evidence of fraud. Those results have not been published.
The driver, Jacqueline Brewster, 52, of Belfry, Kentucky, was arrested by her local police department on undisclosed charges Tuesday in response to a fleeing warrant from Washington County, Tennessee, where she indictments begin, including prison records and court records. . Brewster was released Wednesday with orders to report to Tennessee within 10 days.
“I didn’t run for anything,” Brewster told the court. “I don’t know how I’m a fugitive.”
According to documents filed by Tennessee and West Virginia health officials and their nurses’ boards, Brewster is expected to regularly open the hospital’s medical offices to return bottles or diapers. Syringes of an opioid drug, Dilaudid, which is said to remove some of the drug for use or theft. then return the bottles or syringes, perhaps after attaching a cap. The CEO of one of the hospital systems complained of in an interview with KHN said the tour guide added some extra water to the syringes – – in an attempt to cover his passages.
The allegations against Brewster, which have not been reported before, come at a time when coronavirus infection has required U.S. hospitals to rely more on traveling nurses, who frequently visit state lines to work month-long in short-term hospitals. As hospitals filled with patients and there was an increasing shortage of nurses, many hospitals turned to nurses to fill the gaps, often at great cost. .
But the “desire” to hire nurses has exacerbated gaps in the public sector that is supposed to take care of nurses, said John Benson, founder of Verisys, a data management company that researches. measuring staff ability to maintain health systems.
Nurses and other medical professionals were licensed, investigated and prosecuted at the state level. But researchers don’t speak well on state lines, Benson said, because more nurses began to travel during illness, it was easier to “outrun” research by having a further action in a different state prior to the indictment of the crime.
“The system is more broken than covid,” Benson said. “It’s more of a breakup when it’s covid.”
Brewster, a registered nurse in Kentucky since 2004 and holds a license that allows her to work in more than 30 states included in the Nurse Licensure Compact. After he was indicted for misconduct at Raleigh General last month, the West Virginia board of trustees suspended Brewster’s ability to train in the state. In recent days, Tennessee health officials have filed a lawsuit they received from Johnson City Medical Center last July, initiating a professional disciplinary action that could end the possibility of Brewster will work in that state later this year.
On Wednesday, Brewster’s multistate license was “tried” in Kentucky but not limited to, which makes it possible to work as a nurse in most of the state. Nowhere else did Brewster work as a tour guide, for seven months after he was first charged with fraud in Tennessee.
Brewster could not be reached for comment and it was not clear if he had a lawyer. A Knoxville attorney as Brewster’s attorney was denied records with the Tennessee Board of Trustees.
One hospital that relied heavily on visiting nurses during illness was Johnson City Medical Center. Ballad Health, which owns the hospital, said last summer the disease had increased the number of traveling nurses employed by the company from 150 to 400.
Brewster was one of the tenants. She was employed by Jackson Nurse Professionals, a group of traveling nurses in Orlando, Florida, and worked at Johnson City Medical Center for three months before the complaint became known, according to stories.
Ballad Health Director Alan Levine told KHN another nurse had marked a leaking bottle in the hospital’s medical office, and a local court linked the bottle to Brewster.
“He opens the Dilaudid and replaces it with something else like the Dilaudid, and replaces the bottles in the Omnicell system,” Levine said. “One of our nurses noticed something else in one of the bottles and immediately reported the medication.”
Ballad Health fired Brewster and took care of law enforcement and the Tennessee Health Service, according to the company. He sent five Dilaudid syringes to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s criminal office, which confirmed the amount of the drug in it “did not match the manufacturer’s label,” according to the documents. the board of trustees.
The hospital said he tried to give Brewster a medical examination. He first gave an insufficient urine sample, the documents said, and after giving a second Brewster sample “he sued the lab technician for wrongdoing,” he took the sample. from his hand, and cast it down into the pit.
“This is my *** [sic]”Brewster said as he took the example, according to the documents.
The Tennessee Department of Health filed a professional criminal case against Brewster with the Board of Nurses on March 31. He is scheduled to arrive in August. 24 at the hearing and the problem of losing his guardian license.
Sometime after his release from Johnson City Medical Center, Brewster began working at Raleigh General, a private hospital about 120 miles north of Beckley, West Virginia.
Last month, the hospital told the West Virginia board of nurses that Dilaudid bottles had been found in its drugstores, according to the board’s order releasing the Brewster license. . Some bottles were lost and others were sealed with the rest “like glue,” the board said.
In addition, a local court “led directly” to Brewster, according to the board’s order.
Raleigh General “threw away several bottles of Dilaudid in order to prevent patients from contamination” and gave some bottles to law enforcement for testing. The results were not disclosed.
Jackson Nurse Professionals did not respond to requests for comment. It’s not clear if Brewster always worked for the profession.
Raleigh General Hospital in West Virginia released a statement that it was still investigating Brewster and meeting with officials but declined to answer questions about the case.
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