Theft by ER nurse results in disbursement of potentially contaminated drugs at Lee Memorial

Patients at Lee Memorial Hospital in Fort Myers, Fla., were given diluted and potentially tainted medications due to medication theft committed by an emergency room nurse, according to The News-Press.

On Sept. 2, ER nurse Alex Rodriguez was arrested on 131 felony charges related to medication theft, fraud and forgery.

In April, Mr. Rodriguez began stealing the potent painkillers Dilaudid, oxycodone and morphine from a locked medication container. According to the arrest report, as relayed by News-Press, Mr. Rodriguez replaced morphine and Dilaudid contained within the hospital's drug dispensing system with saline approximately 15 times a month between April and Aug. 11. Mr. Rodriguez also diluted liquid pain medications contained in syringe devices called carpujects, which could have resulted in drug contamination.

According to News-Press, Lee Memorial is conducting its own investigation regarding the potential exposure of patients to corrupted medications, and the system does not believe any patients were harmed.

"We maintain policies and procedures for the handling of pharmaceuticals to ensure patient safety," said Lee Memorial spokeswoman Mary Briggs in a statement given to News-Press. "We have numerous checks and balances in place that alert us of unusual activity, which we are reviewing to see if improvement is needed. We are not aware at this time of patient harm due to the alleged illegal activity. We are continuing to fully cooperate with law enforcement while the criminal investigation ensues."

Mr. Rodriguez is being held in Lee County Jail on more than $655,000 bond and will next appear in court Oct. 4.

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