Victim of accused pain med theft nurse speaks out

COLUMBIA CITY, Ind. (WANE)  A former nurse at Parkview Whitley Hospital is facing criminal charges.  She’s accused of stealing patients’ pain medication.  Indiana State Police arrested the nurse Thursday.  Detectives say she was taking the vials of pain meds and replacing them with saline solution.

(Mug shot courtesy of the Whitley County Sheriff's Dept.)  Britte Smith is accused of stealing patients' pain medication.
(Mug shot courtesy of the Whitley County Sheriff’s Dept.) Britte Smith is accused of stealing patients’ pain medication.

Police and hospital officials can’t tell NewsChannel 15 how many patients were given saline solution instead of pain meds.  What we can tell you is one of the victims is a 16-year-old from South Whitley who tells NewsChannel 15’s Megan Reust he suspected something wasn’t right.

“I just wasn’t feeling like the pain medicine was working at all in the hospital. It was just bad pain the entire time. Terrible pain,” victim Ryan Slater explained.

16-year-old Ryan Slater had surgery at Parkview Whitley Hospital on New Years Day.  Little did he, his parents, and nurses know he wasn’t actually getting pain medicine.

“He was still saying he was in a lot of pain, and I’m trying to tell him no you just got pain medicine,” mother of the victim Tammy Slater said, “His pain just kept getting worse.”

According to police, that’s because 40-year-old Britte Smith had been swapping out the vials of patients pain meds with saline solution.  Something hospital officials uncovered after the fact.

Ryan’s mom Tammy says she got a call from the President of Parkview Whitley in mid-April about what happened.

“It hurts me, and it makes me mad.  You’re supposed to get excellent care with Parkview, and that was not excellent care.”

The Slater family says Parkview Whitley tried to make it right by reimbursing their health insurance company for the pain medicine he never received.

The President of the hospital says once his staff discovered what was happening, they called police.  He issued NewsChannel 15 the following statement:

Upon discovery of the actions of the accused, Parkview Whitley team members and I investigated and immediately contacted police. Upon learning the results of our thorough investigation, I promptly contacted patients potentially impacted by the actions of the accused and shared with them our findings. I wanted to personally inform anyone potentially impacted by these actions that we have no reason to believe their health was compromised. 

Understanding the inherent trust our patients have in their health care providers, I also wanted to express my deepest apologies and assure them that this was an isolated incident and the actions of one person, who is no longer employed by Parkview Whitley Hospital. I also wanted to reassure all parties involved that we have taken many steps to eliminate the risk of this happening again.

State police arrested Smith Thursday after a two-month long investigation that was prompted by her employer, Parkview Whitley Hospital.

Police said that on numerous instances between November 13, 2013 and March 30, 2014, Smith accessed the hospital’s Pyxis Machine, which is used to dispense or deliver drugs or controlled substances.  Smith is accused of accessing the Pyxis Machines in both the Medical Surgery and Constant Care Units of the hospital for the controlled substance Hydromorphone HCL “for purposes other than patient care.”

She faces the following charges:

• Interference with Medical Services, Class C Felony
• Theft, Class D Felony
• Possession of a Narcotic Drug, Class D Felony

Smith was released from the Whitley County jail on a $10,000 surety bond and is scheduled to appear in court on June 23.

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