UT Southwestern Medical Center must pay $4.5 million for failing to comply with regulatory requirements for the control and accounting of opioid drugs, including fentanyl, that resulted in the tragic death of two nurses after a drug overdose at one of its hospitals.
This fine is the second-highest penalty against hospitals in the United States. It is also a record fine for the state of Texas.
The story dates back to 2018 when the Dallas Morning News found in its investigation that nurses died from fentanyl, probably intended for patients. After that, an inspection of the hospital was conducted. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Attorney's Office also conducted their investigation.
"For years prior to our investigation, UT Southwestern exhibited an almost shocking disregard for its obligations under the Controlled Substance Act. The serial compliance failures we uncovered warranted a multi-million-dollar penalty and a corrective action plan." - U.S. Attorney Chad Meacham said in a statement Tuesday.
The investigators reviewed records at UT Southwestern over the last five years. They found opioid thefts by the employees of the institution.
Officials found that UT Southwestern did not keep careful records of controlled substances. The medical facility did not report the theft of drugs to the DEA.
UT Southwestern has made several security improvements. Additionally, the facility will implement the following security measures:
- Drug Inventory audits will be conducted for the next three years
- Investigation of physicians suspected of diverting drugs
- DEA will inspect its facilities without notice or a warrant
- The facility will establish a confidential hotline to report suspected theft of controlled substances
- Security cameras will be installed in areas where drugs are stored
Nurse Patricia Norman died of a drug overdose in 2016. She reportedly prescribed drugs to patients without a clear explanation of how they would be used
Half a year before her death, the young woman had been admitted to the emergency room. At the time, doctors suspected a drug overdose.
A second nurse, Iyisha Keller, died from an overdose that was intended for her patient because fentanyl was not found in the patient's internal medication bag
Keller's mother, Denise Keller, is satisfied with the punishment. At the same time, she is highly frustrated with the facility's system for controlling dangerous substances.
"They didn't protect the nurses and their staff from drugs," Keller's mother said.
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