Colorado Nurses Face Jail Time After Pleading Guilty to Drug Thefts

Nurse Leader Insider, May 3, 2018

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Originally appeared on PSQH.

Two Colorado nurses were given prison sentences in the last few weeks after pleading guilty to stealing opioids from the hospitals where they worked, according to a Denver Post report. Both had previously lost jobs at other facilities for similar issues.

Lisa Marie Jones, 43, was sentenced last Friday to 14 months in prison after pleading guilty to thefts of fentanyl, morphine, and hydromorphone from Denver’s Veterans Affairs Medical Center and UCHealth in Aurora in 2016 and 2017. Marlene Gilmore, 28, was given a four-month prison term after pleading guilty on April 20 to stealing the same drugs in 2016 from North Colorado Medical Center in Greeley.

The Post reported that Jones first caught the attention of authorities while working at a UCHealth facility when a pharmacist in February 2017 found that a vial of fentanyl had been tampered with. She had previously tested positive for high fentanyl use at UCHealth. After she was fired from UCHealth, Jones was able to get a job as a contract nurse at the VA Medical Center in Denver from March 10 to April 27, 2017. Court documents stated the VA was unaware of her firing from UCHealth. She then stole hydromorphone for her own use from vials intended for patients, according to the Post.

The Colorado State Nursing Board investigated Jones and reinstated her nursing license last August after she agreed to a monitoring and drug treatment program. She told the judge she became addicted to painkillers prescribed after she had dental surgeries.

Federal prosecutors argued against leniency because Jones’ multiple thefts involved tampering with vials of painkillers, which put patients at risk of not receiving adequate pain relief and also possibly being contaminated with infectious diseases, according to the report.

Gilmore resigned in 2014 from the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora after being confronted about diverting drugs from the hospital. Employees had reported to managers that she had exhibited slurred speech and was nodding off.

Gilmore managed to get a job the next year at North Colorado Medical Center in the critical care unit, where she admitted to stealing fentanyl, morphine, and hydromorphone and refilling the drug containers with tap water. According to court documents, at least four tests determined the containers were contaminated with bacteria and fungi, the Post reported. Prosecutors alleged in court documents that Gilmore stole the drugs at least 132 times.

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