The death of a licensed practical nurse (LPN) has launched an investigation of the care provided at the nursing home at which he worked. The LPN collapsed and died while providing care at the facility. A coroner's report indicates he died from an overdose of codeine and an anti-depressant. Shortly after the he collapsed, a co-worker found three plastic bags containing 71 methadone pills and muscle relaxers in his coat pocket, all of which apparently had been stolen from the nursing home. Read more about the nurse.
A supervisor at the nursing home acknowledged the LPN “had been in rehab for drug addiction and was cleared to come back to work.” The article adds, "It’s unclear who approved [the LPN] for work at a nursing home, where giving medicine to residents is one of the major tasks performed by nurses." The article doesn't answer the question how long the LPN had been permitted by the nursing home to work while addicted, before he began taking drug treatment classes, or while he was taking those classes.
The nursing home should never have allowed this nurse on the floor while he had a drug addiction and was actively attending a drug treatment program. Drug screens should have been considered by the facility for all new hires and existing staff. Those screens would have prevented this nurse from ever getting hired and would have flagged his drug problem long before he ever admitted to it. Once the nursing home learned about his drug problem, it should have fired him, or at least suspended his employment until he successfully completed drug treatment. Even if he successfully completed drug treatment, he should not have been permitted to provide care in any capacity at the nursing home until he proved he was drug-free for an appropriate amount of time after treatment.
Of course, all of this assumes the nursing home is a more responsible employer than its drug-addicted LPN was an employee. That's probably not a safe assumption. This nursing home experienced problems long before the LPN ever working there. Months ago, the state department of public health determined the nursing home was not in compliance with state and federal long term care standards. The home was scheduled to have all Medicaid and Medicare funding — the facility's main sources of revenue — cut off for existing patients unless its care improved. The nursing home had been barred from receiving Medicaid and Medicare funding for new patients. State and federal fines of more than $45,000 were also imposed because recent inspections found untreated pressure ulcers (bed sores, pressure sores, decubitus ulcers) and patients who were left lying in their own waste. The facility was also criticized by state investigators for failing to give patients all doses of medicine prescribed for them and for failing to keep accurate records of leftover medicine.
One observer remarked, with respect to the drug-addicted LPN, that “[o]ther people’s lives depend on nurses being alert and competent." However, the facility allowed the LPN to work while effectively "stoned." Based on the facility's decision to let the LPN work with and around drugs while he was actively receiving treatment for a drug addiction, as well as the facility's history of poor care, it looks like the nursing home's owners and operators could also have used some professional help!
Robert W. Carter, Jr. is a Virginia attorney whose law practice is dedicated to protecting the rights of the victims of nursing home and assisted living neglect and abuse in Richmond, Roanoke, Norfolk, Lynchburg, Danville, Charlottesville, and across Virginia.
Posted on Mon, February 25, 2008
by Robert Carter