Former Nurse Admits Stealing Powerful Narcotics From Clinton County Hospital's E.r.

Attorney General Spitzer today announced that a former registered nurse at Champlain Valley Physician's Hospital (CVPH) in Plattsburgh has pleaded guilty to charges of stealing powerful narcotic painkillers for his own use and then falsifying the hospital's records to conceal the thefts.

Appearing earlier this week before Clinton County Judge Patrick McGill, Edward Fowler pleaded guilty to the felony crime of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree, and one count each of Petit Larceny and Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Seventh Degree, both Class A misdemeanors.

Following his plea, Fowler was sentenced to six months in jail and five years' probation on the felony charge and two months in jail on each of the misdemeanors, to run concurrently with the felony jail time. He was immediately remanded.

"When patients are brought to a hospital's emergency room, they put their lives and trust in the hands of nurses and other health care staff," said Spitzer. "For employees entrusted with such critical responsibilities to abuse drugs is inexcusable and could very well put patients' lives at risk. This conviction sends a clear message to all health care workers that my Medicaid Fraud Control Unit will continue to aggressively ferret out such criminal activity, and that prosecution will be swift and encompass the full measure of the law."

Between May and December 1999, Fowler stole various controlled medications - including morphine and methadone - from CVPH. The drugs, in both injectable and tablet form, were obtained from the hospital's pharmacy department or the emergency room's locked narcotics cabinet.

In order to conceal the thefts, Fowler falsified hospital records to indicate that the drugs had been ordered by physicians for the treatment of E.R. patients. In most cases, the drugs were either never ordered, the patients were not in the E.R. on the date specified, or the dosage was incorrect.

For example, on October 20, 1999, Fowler removed a total of six vials of Versid from the E.R.'s narcotics cabinet, falsely indicating each time that the drug had been ordered by a physician for a specific E.R. patient. That same day, Fowler removed a vial containing 10 mg. of IV morphine sulfate from the E.R.'s narcotics cabinet and after administering only 2 mg. to a patient under his care, he kept the remaining 8 mg. for his own use.

A dazed and incoherent Fowler was observed later in the day in the E.R. clutching a vial of Versid and trying to make an entry in the E.R.'s narcotic log computer program. The hospital sent him home on administrative leave and began an investigation.

Four days later, Fowler, while still on leave, appeared at CVPH dressed in hospital scrubs and signed out narcotics for patients who were no longer in the hospital. Even after he surrendered his nursing license on December 3, 1999, Fowler repeatedly went back to the hospital in his E.R. uniform and signed out controlled drugs from the pharmacy, claiming that they were for hospital patients.

Fowler, 31, lives at 2111 Pony Farm Road, Jacksonville, North Carolina. He formerly lived at 77 Sand Road in Morrisonville, New York. Fowler worked at the hospital from August 1993 to October 1999. He was a registered nurse in New York State from 1991 to December 3, 1999.

The case was prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General John M. Meekins, Regional Director of the Albany Regional Office of Spitzer's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. All cases are handled under the direct supervision of Deputy Attorney General Jos? Maldonado.

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