Billings Clinic discloses drug diversion by former employee
Billings, MT— Billings Clinic has learned that a former nurse in its Cardiac Cath Lab was stealing narcotic medications intended for patients.
Billings Clinic immediately reported this matter to the appropriate state and federal authorities and is cooperating fully with their investigation. In addition, the clinic terminated the nurse’s employment and is conducting an internal investigation. The former employee started at Billings Clinic in August of 2016.
In some instances, the nurse exchanged fentanyl with saline, which is a sterile salt water solution. Billings Clinic has identified the patients who potentially received the saline instead of fentanyl. The clinic has found no evidence that patients were exposed to infections, including Hepatitis C and HIV. As a precaution, the nurse’s blood was tested and the results were clear for those infections.
During Cath Lab procedures, patients are sedated using a combination of medications. Fentanyl is only one component of this combination. Successful sedation is achieved using additional dosing or other medications.
Billings Clinic will adjust patient bills to remove charges for all sedating medications used during these Cath Lab procedures.
“We are taking this matter very seriously and our focus is to support our patients,” said Camilla Saberhagen, MD, Billings Clinic Chief Quality and Patient Safety Officer. “We are working to identify ways to strengthen our safeguards and reduce the risk of theft and potential threats to patient safety.”
This event highlights the severity of an epidemic of opioid abuse in the United States. In light of this epidemic, Billings Clinic is being transparent about this situation and is working to improve its processes. The Clinic has learned that only about half of health care organizations in the country would disclose to patients in similar situations. In conversation, the CDC asked Billings Clinic to share its approach to help establish a best practice response for these situations.
Billings Clinic mailed letters to 341 patients who may have been affected. In addition, all patients are being personally contacted by Billings Clinic clinicians and a call center has been established to answer questions. Patient letter.
The dedicated phone line for Cath Lab patients to call if they have any questions is available from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm, Monday through Friday, at 406-657-4355, or toll-free at 844-830-3590. They may leave a message 24 hours a day.