Former Billings Clinic nurse suspected of stealing narcotic medi - KULR8.com | Montana's News Leader | Billings, MT

Former Billings Clinic nurse suspected of stealing narcotic medicine

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BILLINGS, Mont. -

Billings Clinic released a press release Tuesday, stating it has learned that a former nurse in its Cardiac Cath Lab is suspected of stealing narcotic medications intended for patients.

Billings Clinic stated in the press release it immediately reported the situation to the appropriate state and federal authorities. In addition, the hospital terminated the nurse's employment and is conducting an internal investigation. The former employee started at Billings Clinic in August of 2016.

Billings Clinic stated in some instances the nurse exchanged fentanyl with saline. Fentanyl is an opioid painkiller similar to morphine. Billings Clinic says they have identified the patients who potentially received the saline instead of the fentanyl. Below is the letter sent to patients.

Billings Clinic says there is no evidence any patients were exposed to infections, such as Hepatitis C or HIV. The nurse's blood was also tested and the results were clear. Billings Clinic says it will adjust patient bills to remove charges for all sedating medications used during these Cath Lab procedures.

"We are taking this matter very seriously and our focus is to support our patients," said Camilla Saberhagen, MD, Billings Clinic Chief Quality and Patient Safety Officer. "We are working to identify ways to strengthen our safeguards and reduce the risk of theft and potential threats to patient safety." 

"This event highlights the severity of an epidemic of opioid abuse in the United States," the hospital wrote in the release. "In light of this epidemic, Billings Clinic is being transparent about this situation and is working to improve its processes.  The Clinic has learned that only about half of health care organizations in the country would disclose to patients in similar situations. In conversation, the CDC asked Billings Clinic to share its approach to help establish a best practice response for these situations."

"Billings Clinic mailed letters to 341 patients who may have been affected.  In addition, all patients are being personally contacted by Billings Clinic clinicians and a call center has been established to answer questions."

The dedicated phone line for Cath Lab patients to call if they have any questions is available from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm, Monday through Friday, at 406-657-4355, or toll-free at 844-830-3590. They may leave a message 24 hours a day.

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