Health Care

Three healthcare facilities noticed drugs missing. The common thread: one nurse

A St. Petersburg licensed practical nurse had her license restricted after, the Florida Department of Health said, she was fired from three healthcare facilities this year for stealing Percocet, Ultram and other pain medications.

The emergency restriction order says Sarah O’Halloran “admitted to [addiction Dr. Lawrence] Wilson, that she diverted controlled substances from [Golfview Healthcare Center] and Boca Ciega [Center].

“Ms. O’Halloran further admitted to Dr. Wilson that she had been addicted to opioids for 10 to 15 years and that she had been supporting that addiction by diverting controlled substances from various employers.”

O’Halloran had a registered pharmacy technician license from Dec. 31, 2009, to Dec. 31, 2010, and has had her licensed practical nurse state license since Feb. 5, 2010.

After diagnosing O’Halloran with severe opioid use disorder, moderate cannabis use disorder and depressive disorder, he recommended she deal with the opioid addiction via an inpatient rehabilitation program. He also recommended she agree to oversight by the Intervention Project for Nurses, the Board of Nursing’s monitor for nurses dealing with substance abuse and mental health issues.

The Emergency Restriction Order order said O’Halloran had done neither as of Sept. 5. She is restricted from practicing nursing until the Intervention Project evaluator says she no longer presents a danger to the public.

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Last October, O’Halloran worked at Golfview, a St. Petersburg nursing home. The ERO said other staff there found 28 hydrocodone tablets had been accidentally ordered for a patient, H.K., who wasn’t prescribed the pain medication. O’Halloran put down in records that she’d given H.K. hydrocodone. But H.K tested negative for hydrocodone.

And of the 28 tablets that shouldn’t have been there in the first place, only five remained. O’Halloran tested positive for opiates, oxycodone and cannabis.

Golfview fired O’Halloran, the ERO said.

By June, O’Halloran was working at two other nursing homes simultaneously, Largo Health and Rehabilitation Center and Boca Ciega Center.

On June 14, another nurse at Largo saw her initials in a log book as having given a patient Percocet. The nurse knew she hadn’t given Percocet to that patient. But she knew who should be on the list to ask, according to the ERO — O’Halloran admitted stealing the Percocet.

This sparked a check of drug logs back to February, which turned up oxycodone with Tylenol signed out, but never given to the two patients stated; hydrocodone Tylenol signed out for six patients that never got it; Ultram signed out for a patient that never got it; and “controlled substances signed out for multiple patients on Feb. 29, 2019.”

There was no Feb. 29, 2019.

Largo fired O’Halloran on June 19, the ERO said. But, she still worked at Boca Ciega.

“On July 1, 2019, Boca Ciega received an anonymous complaint accusing Ms. O’Halloran of diverting controlled substances from that facility,” the ERO said.

An investigation turned up that O’Halloran had taken Ultram, oxycodone or hydrocodone from the narcotic box 10 times and didn’t document tossing them or giving them to a patient.

Boca Ciega fired O’Halloran on July 10 after she refused to participate in the investigation of the missing drugs.

Since 1989, David J. Neal’s domain at the Miami Herald has expanded to include writing about Panthers (NHL and FIU), Dolphins, old school animation, food safety, fraud, naughty lawyers, bad doctors and all manner of breaking news. He drinks coladas whole. He does not work Indianapolis 500 Race Day.
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