Two new stories popped up the day after Christmas, that shared an unfortunate similarity – both were reporting healthcare employees engaged in stealing and/or over-prescribing pain pills, and both stories illustrate ways in which the opioid crisis has arisen around chronic pain patients – not due to their own activity, but rather by those who are supposed to be helping them…and at the patients’ cost.
In one instance a nursing facility employee in Grand Rapids Minnesota “kept more than 1,900 opioid tablets intended for clients for herself over two years.”
According to the story by John Lundy for Forum News Service, “The facility’s clients sometimes went without pain medications as a result, according to the report.”
“The investigation by the Minnesota Department of Health’s Office of Health Facility Complaints also found that other staff members were aware of the theft but didn’t report it because of fear of retaliation by the employee and by management at the facility.”
In the second story, a pain clinic nurse in Tennessee prescribed “more than 31 times the current recommendation by the state’s government,” yet was “able to keep her nursing license after giving a patient 51 pills a day in 2011.”
According to article by OAN Newsroom, “The state’s Department of Health said her prescriptions were so large they could only be used for suicide and drug trafficking,” and that the nurse “reportedly continued to give out prescriptions even after patients failed drug tests, lost pills or even overdosed.”
The worst part is that “Tennessee’s Board of Nursing allowed Collins to continue writing opioid prescriptions.”
The nurse “was sentenced to two-years of professional probation, but continued to work at small clinics and nursing homes in the Knoxville area. The state has petitioned a judge to order the board to reconsider.”
It’s a shame to read these stories and know that they contribute to the “opioid crisis” narrative and the accompanying knee-jerk solutions impacting pain patients. On the other hand, if more emphasis were placed on identifying people such as those in the stories above – and less emphasis on umbrella policies and guidelines, perhaps a more informed and balanced approach could be realized.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.