Nurse anesthetist at Northfield Hospital admits drug thefts

  • Article by: PAT PHEIFER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 16, 2012 - 6:07 PM

He says patients always got prescribed medications.

A former nurse anesthetist at Northfield Hospital admitted stealing one to two vials daily of the narcotic drugs Fentanyl and Versed from his employer, according to charges filed in Dakota County District Court. He said he'd become addicted to the painkillers after knee surgery.

Craig Robert Hall, 50, of Northfield, told hospital officials that he started stealing drugs left over after his patients had received their medications, then progressed to stealing full vials, court documents said. He denied that he ever stole drugs meant for patients and said that his patients always got their prescribed medications, the complaint said.

Hall is charged with one felony count of theft. His first court appearance is Dec. 3.

The complaint said the thefts were discovered in August after the hospital's internal procedures detected missing narcotics and an electrician installing surveillance equipment found packaging from a half-case of Fentanyl hidden in the ceiling tiles. Hall, a certified registered nurse anesthetist, was seen on video opening his locked medication box and taking something from the bottom. He also was seen taking a syringe.

When Hall met with hospital officials, he admitted that he'd been stealing the narcotics for the past 2 1/2 years. He said he also stole from hospitals in Owatonna and Faribault, "but it was harder at those hospitals."

Hall said "he is glad he has been caught because he couldn't 'go on this way' and that he has tried stopping on his own but was unsuccessful," the complaint said.

The hospital said Friday that Hall is no longer employed there.

According to a report issued last April by the Controlled Substance Diversion Coalition, reported drug thefts at hospitals and nursing homes have more than doubled since 2005. Their report, said to be the first of its kind, found 250 cases of prescription drugs that were stolen or reported missing at Minnesota health care facilities from 2005 to 2011.

A string of cases made headlines in 2011, including that of a nurse at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis who allegedly let a patient writhe in pain after she siphoned off his painkillers. In March 2011, St. Cloud Hospital suspended a nurse who allegedly used a contaminated needle to steal medications from IV bags, spreading bacterial infections to 23 patients.

The Minnesota Health Department said Friday that it doesn't have data yet on the number of thefts reported from hospitals and nursing homes so far this year.

Pat Pheifer • 952-746-3284

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