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Samaritan on arrests: Audit worked, focus now on education

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Samaritan on arrests: Audit worked, focus now on education
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The recent arrests of four nurses at Samaritan Medical Center in Watertown is proof that the hospital's auditing system works. The nurses are now all facing charges for stealing medications. YNN's Brian Dwyer explains how they were caught and what the hospital says is the next step toward preventing these types of crimes.

WATERTOWN, N.Y. -- Three days. Four arrests. Nurses at Samaritan Medical Center in Watertown were all charged last week with a variety of crimes stemming from the theft of medications.

"To us it appears that medication was removed from the vile, a cap was glued back in place and then placed back. That was found and not administered to any patient," SMC Chief Nursing Director Brian O'Hearn said.

Found by the hospital's auditing system that tracks what a physician orders and what a nurse takes out. Any irregularities are recorded.

"When you start to see a repetitive pattern, that's really what draws attention," O'Hearn said, referencing the cases.

Those patterns appeared with the four nurses. SMC says it called authorities immediately.

Three of the four are what's known as travel nurses. They're much like temps. Samaritan is expanding its emergency department and had a number of openings it needed filled immediately. The hospital says not only did it check employee backgrounds, references and do drug screenings, but so did the agency that sent them.

"In all three cases, all of that was done and no issues were identified among these individuals," Samaritan Medical Center Spokesperson Krista Kittle said.

While the hospital is thankful that its auditing system did work, it does understand now the apparent need for more employee training.

"I think an awareness as to those practicing around them and also offering resources and education in terms of what's available for the impaired practitioner," O'Hearn said.

The American Nurses Association estimates 10 percent of nurses have some sort of addiction to some sort of drug. There's statewide assistance programs and nurses can even voluntarily suspend their license and seek treatment, getting the license back when ready.

Samaritan says it's not sure what the nurses were doing with the medications they took.

The Bureau of Narcotics and State Police are still investigating.

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