A Black eye for nurses

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    Live Oak woman sues Jourdanton hospital, former nurse

    By Kate Hunger
    San Antonio Express-News

    Web Posted : 07/11/2002 12:00 AM
    http://www.mysanantonio.com/expressn...180&xlc=755193

    JOURDANTON A Live Oak County woman has sued South Texas Regional Medical Center and an HIV-positive nurse accused of injecting herself with pain medication from a supply intended for patients.

    Filed last week in Atascosa County, the lawsuit names as defendants the Jourdanton hospital, its Tennessee-based owner, Community Health Systems, Inc., and Jacqueline Fillingim, the nurse.

    Court papers refer to the woman bringing the suit as "Jane Doe" because of the stigma attached to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, said her lawyer, Charles H. Peckham of Houston.

    Peckham is seeking to have the suit certified as a class action to encompass the 1,100 former patients who received the injectable pain medication Demerol during the seven months Fillingim worked at the hospital.

    The hospital revealed the possible contamination in March, almost three months after Fillingim left, and urged those patients to be tested for HIV.

    The plaintiff, a 42-year-old mother of four, said she is awaiting the results of her second HIV test and worries she might have contracted the virus or passed it on to her family.

    "I live with that fear every day," she said Wednesday.

    The lawsuit alleges that the hospital and its owner should have done a better background check on Fillingim and were negligent in employing her, given the fact she previously had surrendered her license and had a history of substance abuse.

    It also alleges that the hospital and CHS falsely portrayed the hospital as safe and that Fillingim was improperly supervised.

    The lawsuit claims patients are entitled to damages for emotional distress and mental anguish resulting "from the fear of HIV infection" to the pain of the HIV tests themselves.

    Rosemary Walsh, a spokeswoman for the hospital and CHS, said Wednesday that neither had been served with the lawsuit. After reading a copy of the plaintiff's petition, she disputed the plaintiffs' assertion that the hospital refused to provide follow-up HIV tests.

    "The arrangements for that were very clear," she said. "We made reimbursements to physicians who had patients who required follow-up tests."

    Fillingim worked at the hospital from June 4, 2001, until Jan 4.

    CHS bought the hospital in November and was not operating it when she was hired, Walsh noted.

    According to records with the State Board of Nurse Examiners, Fillingim voluntarily surrendered her license in 1995 and indicated she was in recovery for alcohol abuse when she sought reinstatement in 1997.

    Her license was reinstated in 1998, on condition of mandatory therapy and drug and alcohol screening, provisions lifted in September 2000, according to agency records.

    Fillingim has not been charged, although a criminal investigation has been opened. The State Board of Nurse Examiners filed a complaint against her in April, and Fillingim surrendered her nursing license soon after.

    Peckham said Wednesday that efforts to serve Fillingim and the hospital with the lawsuit had so far been unsuccessful.

    Efforts to reach Fillingim, who lives in Pleasanton, were unsuccessful Wednesday, and her lawyer, David Willborn, declined comment.

    The hospital doesn't know whether any of the 1,100 patients tested positive for HIV, because many of them were tested elsewhere.

    In any case, their results are protected by patient confidentiality laws, Walsh said.

    "All of the experts agreed the opportunities for exposure here were extremely limited," she said. "We were just being extremely cautious. This is not the kind of thing you can share partial information on."

    Walsh said she is unaware of any other lawsuits pending against the hospital or CHS on the same matter.

    khunger@express-news.net

    Sure hope shes referred to a peer assistance program. Wonder if there was any notation of prior license restricitons when license checked at hiring. Think because it's two strikes, she's out.
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  3. 9 Comments so far...

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    Wow, this is a sad situation all the way around, sad for the pt's, sad for the nurse (no worry about her stigma in identifying her as HIV +), sad for the hospital.

    Next thing you know, they'll be making all of us get tested!
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    So are these people alleging that she stuck herself and then them with the same needle?? We just had a doc surrender his license but he was using a clean syring and needle (I know, doesn't make it right!!) and sucking it out of IV bags (in addition to steeling it from the narc drawers). I thought most druggies just gave the patients a placebo and took the actual drug for themselves? Sad story either way. Clearly this person should not be woking in any environment where drugs are available! Hope she gets the help she needs.
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    I hope she gets the help she needs. She is clearly not well. One of the dard sides to our profession indeed.
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    I am less inclined to be sympathetic to this nurse and this hospital. This is criminal negligence on the part of the hospital for hiring her and criminal behavior on her part. Just put yourself in the shoes of those poor people she cared for.
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    We found an unconscious anesthesiology resident on the floor of our med room with an ativan tubex sticking out of his arm. We've had other cases too but this is the first one that comes to mind right now. He was treated & sent for employee assistance......... & came back. He didnt lose his license - he was given help & wasnt even thrown out of his medical program. Same thing for the other doctors that have been in this situation. The nurses with substance abuse, however, were fired & reported to the state office of professional discipline to have their licenses revoked....... a bit of a double standard there - Until our union - (the New York State Nurses Association - NYSNA) - spearheaded a successful peer assistance program for our members with this problem. It TEMPORARILY suspends their licenses and provides the nurse with extensive treatment. The nurses of NYSNA then got the Governor to pass a law making this program available to all RNs in the state - whether they are a member of our assoc or not. RNs in these situations state-wide are now being given the same second chance that the doctors have always been given - to be helped, & get back their lives as well as their licenses.
    see: http://www.nysna.org/programs/span/home.htm
    Last edit by -jt on Jul 16, '02
  9. 0
    <A Live Oak County woman has sued South Texas Regional Medical Center and an HIV-positive nurse accused of injecting herself with pain medication from a supply intended for patients....The hospital revealed the possible contamination in March, almost three months after Fillingim left, and urged those patients to be tested for HIV.>>

    I must be missing something in this article cause I dont see how there could be contamination if the RN took the medication for herself instead of giving it to the pts. Did the RN steal the demerol tubex, injected herself & then refill it with saline - injecting the pts with the same tubex & needle after that? Did she inject herself with half the amount in the tubex & put the used tubex back in place to be used on a pt after that? The article doesnt say how a contamination could have occurred. Is this just hysteria because an HIV+ nurse handled those pts at all?
  10. 0
    I had the same thought...unless she was injecting herself, and using the same tubex/needle for the pts...there is no exposure risk.
    ???
  11. 0
    I'm glad to see that some positive changes are being made for nurses with substance abuse problems.

    The double standard that exists is ridiculous. It's just like the one that occurs when a doctor and nurse fool around at work...the nurse gets the boot, and the doctor gets a lifetime membership in the "good ol' boys' club."
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    <<<
    More nurses seek help for alcohol, drug abuse
    By Celeste Williams
    celeste.williams@indystar.com
    July 12, 2002

    The stories are surprisingly similar -- sad and sordid tales of drug abuse and addiction: One woman stole morphine to use. Another forged prescriptions. Another was found injecting painkillers in a restroom stall. Still another mailed stolen drugs to her brother, who ultimately died of an overdose.

    They are all among the 104,000 registered nurses and licensed practical nurses currently licensed in Indiana. They are mostly women who are responsible for caring for Hoosiers who are ill and often in pain.

    More than 200 nurses have lined up for treatment and supervision of abuse of alcohol and drugs during the past year since Michigan-based Professional Recovery Monitoring Corp. was hired by the Indiana Health Professions Bureau to monitor nurses with substance abuse problems.

    So many nurses have been ordered into the program or sought help that the company had to hire more staff to handle the load.

    "There have been more new referrals in the first year of the program than they had in the previous three years," said Ernest Klein, executive director of the Indiana State Nurses Association.

    "We expected a lot, but not this much," said Professional Recovery Monitoring director Tom Bissonnette.

    The Indiana Health Professions Bureau hired the company in July 2001 to replace Dr. D. Kete Cockrell, who ran the program from its inception in 1997.

    "I think we are seeing pent-up demand due to dissatisfaction with (Cockrell)," Bissonnette said.

    About 104,000 nurses hold licenses in Indiana, and experts estimate that between 6 percent and 15 percent of them abuse drugs or alcohol -- which translates into at least 6,240 nurses.

    Substance abuse in the state's nursing industry endangers patient care, experts say. An investigation by The Star in November 2000 uncovered myriad problems with the state's system of identifying and monitoring nurses with substance abuse problems.

    The investigation also found that the Indiana Health Professions Bureau contributed to the system's problems by not informing nurses of suspension and probation orders in a timely manner, and that it did not prepare written minutes of board meetings for three years.

    An official with the department could not be reached Thursday.

    A backlog of cases being investigated by the state attorney general has been "reduced considerably," Bissonnette said. That office forwards complaints to the Health Professions Bureau, which exercises a range of actions that can include referral to the state assistance program as a condition for license renewal.

    Staci Schneider, spokeswoman for the Indiana attorney general's office, said that office had not yet compiled the number of investigations that had been cleared since the Michigan company was hired.

    The inquiry revealed instances in which nurses who were still abusing substances were working in health care settings and impaired nurses who were not given random drug-screenings.

    The investigation revealed that Cockrell did not fulfill key provisions of his contract, including creation of community education programs to inform nurses and their employers about the confidential monitoring and rehabilitation program. And he only sporadically reported estimated numbers to the nursing board.

    Records show that the Michigan company did more in its first month than Cockrell did in four years. During July 2001, company staff visited two nurse support groups in the state and six hospitals in Indianapolis and Evansville. And it has delivered detailed monthly and quarterly reports to the nursing board.

    The Indiana State Nurses Assistance Program was created by the state legislature in 1996 to identify and monitor nurses who abuse drugs and alcohol. It is funded by nurse licensing fees.

    Cockrell, who was paid about $500,000 over a three-year period, reported last year to the Indiana State Nursing Board, with no documentation, that he was monitoring about 120 active cases.

    Professional Recovery Monitoring Corp., based in Brighton, Mich., monitors 21 health professions in Michigan, including nurses and doctors. It signed a $735,000 contract with Indiana to administer its program through June 2003.

    The firm took on 122 active cases in July 2001, and since has signed on about 100 additional nurses.

    The monitoring of nurses -- each of whom must sign a contract with the company if they enroll in the program -- is strict. It requires each working nurse have a "worksite monitor" to submit monthly reports, random drug screenings to ensure compliance and document relapses and regular contact with any treatment programs the nurse is enrolled in. Call Celeste Williams at 1-317-444-6367.
    http://www.allnurses.com/news/jump.cgi?ID=1072
    >>>


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