Nurse charged with stealing meds from dementia patients
By Brent Curtis
STAFF WRITER | March 04,2013
A Whitehall, N.Y., woman who investigators say diverted pain medications intended for elderly dementia patients at the nursing home where she worked denied four felony charges last week in Rutland criminal court.
Dale Kenyon, a 51-year-old former registered nurse at the Mountain View Center in Rutland, pleaded innocent to multiple charges of prescription fraud — each carrying a potential two-year prison sentence.
She was released after her arraignment last Monday on court-ordered conditions that include she stay away from the nursing home on Haywood Avenue.
Kenyon was arrested in January after administrators at the facility contacted the state Office of Professional Regulation to report the suspicion that Kenyon was stealing morphine checked out for patient use, according to court records.
OPR Detective Dennis Menard said records for four patients diagnosed with dementia at the facility indicated that Kenyon had administered partial morphine doses to them on multiple occasions in December. In each entry, Kenyon administered 2 milligrams from a 10 milligram vial of morphine. In accordance with protocols in place at the nursing home, she recorded that she “wasted” the remaining 8 milligrams of the drug — a process that requires another nurse to witness and sign off on the disposal of the excess morphine.
While signatures for nurses who witnessed the disposal were included on all of Kenyon’s paperwork, Menard said the signatures were illegible and didn’t match any of the handwriting samples from other staff.
The detective said he first interviewed other staff at the facility before confronting Kenyon with his suspicions.
After initially denying that she took the drug, Kenyon allegedly admitted to forging the signatures and injecting the excess morphine into herself.
Menard said that when he asked why she stole the drugs, Kenyon said she had been let go from her previous job because her employer felt she wasn’t performing well as a manager. She told the detective she became depressed over her loss of employment and began using morphine to make herself feel better.
As part of his affidavit, Menard interviewed another registered nurse at Mountain View who said he observed irregularities in Kenyon’s medication record-keeping in the past and had reported it to administrators.
While nothing was determined at that time, the concerns raised by the nurse led administrators to require two signatures on paperwork for wasted medications — the protocol that Menard said contributed largely to Kenyon’s arrest.
Ensuring proper use and disposal of powerful painkillers and narcotic drugs is a major consideration in every medical institution in the state and is of even greater concern when dealing with patients, such as those diagnosed with dementia, who might not be able to communicate with staff or investigators, according to Diane Sullivan, vice president of the Vermont Health Care Association, which represents nursing homes throughout the state.
“We all take that very seriously,” said Sullivan, who is also the administrator at The Pines of Rutland. “It requires vigilance and diligence on everybody’s part.”
To safeguard against thefts by staff — or anyone else entering the state’s nursing homes — facilities rely on random audits, strict protocols and constant surveillance of patients, she said. And while some patients may not be able to communicate verbally with staff, Sullivan said nurses are trained to look for cues that could indicate they aren’t receiving proper doses of their medications.
“If a patient is grimacing upon movement, if they’re wide-eyed and fearful, if their pulse or blood pressure is high, it could be an indication of their comfort level,” she said. “We’re especially cognizant of those facts when a patient isn’t able to communicate with us.”