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Post date: June 2 2000

Nurse Charged With Stealing Narcotics From Clinton County Hospital's E.r.

Attorney General Spitzer today announced the indictment of a former registered nurse at Champlain Valley Physician's Hospital (CVPH), in Plattsburgh, for stealing powerful narcotic painkillers and then falsifying the hospital's records to conceal the thefts. The thefts continued even after the nurse was suspended by the hospital for drug use and he had surrendered his nursing license.

Edward Fowler was arraigned this morning in Clinton County Court before Judge Kevin K. Ryan. Fowler, a former E.R. nurse, has been charged with 14 counts of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree, 12 counts of Petit Larceny, and 12 counts of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Seventh Degree. If convicted, he faces up to four years in prison.

"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 may put patients at serious risk."

It is alleged that, 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 narcotic 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.

Spitzer thanked the State Health Department's Controlled Substance Unit for referring the matter to his office. He also thanked the administration and staff of Champlain Valley Physician's Hospital and the Office of Clinton County District Attorney Penelope D. Clute for their assistance and cooperation in the investigation.

Fowler, 31, lives at 631 Holley Shelter Road, Lot 7, Jacksonville, North Carolina. He formerly lived at 77 Sand Road in Morrisonville, New York. Fowler worked at Champlain Valley Physician's Hospital from August 1993 to October 1999. He was a registered nurse in New York State from 1991 to December 3, 1999.

The case is being 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.

The charges against Fowler are accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.