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Third Samaritan Medical Center nurse arrested on drug charges

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A third temporary traveling nurse has been arrested on drug charges and fired from her job at Samaritan Medical Center.

Patricia A. Shea, 52, of 1030 Arsenal St., who was working in the emergency department, was charged by state police Wednesday night with three counts each of selling and possessing a prescription controlled substance under a state public health law and first-degree falsifying business records, a Class E felony.

State police said Ms. Shea improperly dispensed two prescription drugs, Dilaudid and Percocet, from the hospital’s automated dispensing unit between Jan. 1 and April 29. Both drugs are narcotics. Dilaudid is used for pain, and Percocet is a brand name drug that contains oxycodone.

Less than two weeks ago, two other traveling nurses in the emergency room — Heather L. Graham, 41, Ithaca, and Dawn R. Harrison, 46, Dolgeville — were arrested on charges related to drugs and falsifying business records. They also were accused of dispensing prescription drugs improperly.

Samaritan Medical Center spokeswoman Krista A. Kittle described the cases as three separate incidents, despite their involving traveling nurses and the same department. As with the first two arrested nurses, an auditing system revealed that Ms. Shea was also improperly dispensing narcotics, Ms. Kittle said.

“This kind of action will not be tolerated,” she said.

Traveling nurses work under contract to help ease nursing shortages at hospitals and other medical facilities.

Following an internal investigation, a state Department of Health narcotics investigator and the Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement were alerted to the activity, and then the state police became involved, Ms. Kittle said.

Ms. Shea was sent to the Metro-Jefferson Public Safety Building and released after posting $1,500 bail.

State police were assisted by the state Department of Health, Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement.

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