Providence Care has launched an internal investigation and also called in Kingston Police to look into the theft of the hydromorphone drug Dilaudid from one of its palliative care units at St. Mary’s of the Lake Hospital site, the hospital has confirmed.
The security breach was discovered in June but the thefts may have been going on since early 2013.
According to Providence Care’s internal investigation, it has learned that a female nurse with access to narcotics stored on a palliative care unit had been removing the drug from the unit.
The internal investigation also indicated that there may have been an impact regarding the dosage of pain medication patients received during the time of the theft.
“Providence Care has taken immediate action to ensure that medications on all units in the hospital are secure.” a statement released on Tuesday said. “We have reviewed the narcotic supply on each unit to ensure patients are receiving safe and appropriate medication.”
The news release also stated that the nurse who is believed to have taken the drugs is no longer employed at the hospital.
The statement did not say whether the nurse resigned or was fired.
It also didn’t say how the drugs were taken or how much medication was removed during the thefts.
“We take this situation very seriously, and understand that this information may cause distress for patients, families and staff,” said Cathy Szabo, Providence Care President & CEO. “We are making every effort to assure our current and past patients and families of our commitment to high quality, safe care and services. Patient care and their safety is our key priority.”
The effects of the reduced dosage of the drugs were minimal, according to the statement.
Patients receiving a full dose of the drug probably didn’t notice the reduced dosage, said Dr. Larry Grossman, an independent palliative care doctor. An intermittent dosage amount probably didn’t have the same pain relief effect as before the thefts, but patients would have had their pain medication increased by their doctor or increased after a complaint from the patient that the drugs were not working.
Kingston Police media spokesperson Const. Steve Koopman confirmed a police investigation into the theft has been underway for about six weeks.
Det. Const. Frank Howard of the vulnerable sector unit has been leading the investigation.
Koopman couldn’t say when or if charges will be laid as the investigation is still ongoing. Once police collect all the evidence, they’ll be meeting with the Crown Attorney’s office to discuss possible charges and reasonable grounds for conviction.
“There’s a potential for a larger investigation,” Koopman said.
Charges that could be laid include theft, criminal negligence for failing to provide proper pain medication to patients and trafficking if it’s proven the stolen drugs were made available for sale.
Providence Care has established a toll-free phone number, 1-844-849-9166, for patients and family members who have questions or concerns related to the issue.