A former nurse at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center has been charged with stealing high-level pain medications for her own use and, in some cases, replacing the prescription drugs with tap water.
Kelsey Mulvey, of Grand Island, faces federal charges which could land her in prison for up to ten years.
Prosecutors say some patients were apparently sickened by contaminated tap water. U.S. Attorney James Kennedy says hospital officials became suspicious because of the water-borne illnesses and complaints of no pain relief because of the switched drugs.
"There were 81 patients for whom Mulvey vended controlled substances from the Pyxis machine that were not properly adminstered. It's alleged that on various occasions, Ms. Mulvey diverted controlled substances for her own personal use and, on certain occasions, she even went so far as to remove Dilaudid for her own personal use," Kennedy said, at a news conference Tuesday.
An array of federal and state agencies were called in to probe the missing drugs and the water-borne illnesses. Other staffers apparently turned Mulvey in because of behavior patterns and because they saw her with drug paraphenalia. She is accused of stealing Dilaudid, methadone, oxycodone and lorazepam.
Mulvey also faces charges of accessing personal medical records. Once the accusations surfaced, she quit, rather than be fired.
"Mulvey's actions not only put her own health at risk, but also the well-being of dozens of patients. As a nurse, Ms. Mulvey saw cancer patients suffer in pain every shift she worked. She cared for very sick patients every day, then went ahead and made them sicker," said FBI Special-Agent-in-Charge Gary Loeffert.
In a statement, a spokesperson says the hospital suspected a healthcare worker was removing controlled substances in 2018. That suspicious was immediately relayed to the New York State Department of Health, the NYS Department of Education and the Bureau of Narcotics and Tobacco Enforcement, U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and NYPORT.
"At the time of this investigation, all patients who could have received contaminated medication were notified and appropriate medical follow-up was completed. We have also learned through the investigation that our nurses advocated for those patients for whom their pain did not seem to be sufficiently relieved and took appropriate action to relieve their pain," the statement reads.
The hospital says since that time, it has taken "significant organizational steps to enhance ongoing prevention, detection and response to health care worker drug diversion." Those include heightened surveillance with high-tech software, on-campus security features, review and revision of current policy and procedures, and increased staff training and education.