Police: Another nurse caught stealing drugs

8:56 PM, Aug 21, 2009   |    comments
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Denver Health Medical Center nurse Cheri Jo Bechdolt was arrested Monday, according to police.

Denver Police say Bechdolt stole injectable syringes containing Dilaudid, a powerful pain medication.

The Denver District Attorney's office has charged her with "controlled substance obtained by fraud," a class five felony, according to the Denver District Court Clerk's Office.

Detectives confirm they do not believe any patients were harmed or deprived of medication. Denver Police also tell 9Wants to Know there is no indication Bechdolt reused or swapped syringes.

Bechdolt is scheduled to be in court on Aug. 31 at 9 a.m. in courtroom T20.

Bechdolt is the latest in a string of medical workers fired for allegedly stealing pain medication from area hospitals.

St. Anthony Central Hospital fired nurse Mary "Kathy" Madill last month for allegedly stealing drugs. The hospital also fired Jillian Fischer June 11 after she allegedly stole pain medication from the hospital.

In April, Rose Medical Center fired surgical technician Kristen Parker after she admitted changing out syringes filled with Fentanyl with dirty ones filled with saline solution.

Parker, who tested positive for hepatitis C, could have exposed thousands of patients to the disease when saline inside the dirty syringes was injected into patients from Oct. 21, 2008 to April 13, 2009.

So far, 19 patients have tested positive for the strain of hepatitis C that can be linked to Parker. She faces federal charges.

The first high profile case involved former Boulder Community Hospital surgical nurse Ashton "Paul" Daigle who pleaded guilty June 1 to stealing drugs and using dirty needles to give patients saline or tap water instead of their pain medication.

The hospital suspects Daigle took vials of the drug between Sept. 24, 2008 and Oct. 17, 2008. On Oct. 22, 2008, the hospital became suspicious of the nurse's activities and he was fired on Oct. 24, 2008 when the situation was reported to police.

Investigators believe after the nurse replaced the Fentanyl with saline or tap water, he put the vials back in storage so it would not attract suspicion during routine inventory checks.

Some 300 potential victims were offered health tests to see if they contracted any diseases as a result of Daigle's actions.

Hospital spokesman Richard Sheehan told 9Wants to Know Aug. 7 that Daigle had tested negative for HIV, hepatitis A and hepatitis C.

Denver Health released a statement on Friday about the matter:

"Denver Health has reported to the State Board of Health, the State Board of Nursing, the State Board of Pharmacy, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and the Denver Police Department that, during a routine Denver Health narcotics documentation audit of the Emergency Department Pyxis machine, a drug diversion of Dilaudid was discovered.

Cheri Bechdolt worked in the Denver Health Emergency Department from November 15, 2004 through July 30, 2009. She had a valid nursing license with no prior complaints.

Denver Health's investigation has not revealed any patient safety issue or impact on patient care, or any diversion of drugs from patients.

Denver Health has a rigorous monitoring and surveillance program for narcotics. As part of this investigation, Denver Health has implemented a system-wide review of all Pyxis machines, and is reviewing all policies, procedures and protocols pertaining to Pyxis machines and personnel access to narcotics."

Fentanyl, which is 81 times more powerful than morphine, is used in surgery and for patients with severe pain. Saline is not a harmful substance and is merely a form of sterilized sodium chloride (table salt) in water.

Have a tip or another story for us to investigate? Contact 9Wants to Know reporter Jace Larson by e-mailing jace.larson@9news.com, calling 303-871-1432, on Twitter or Facebook.

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