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Police arrest fourth Samaritan nurse on drug charges

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Another Samaritan Medical Center nurse has been arrested on accusations of improperly dispensing prescription drugs.

Carson F. Fanning, 32, Richland, on Thursday became the fourth Samaritan nurse to be charged with illegally dispensing medication and fired in less than two weeks.

Mr. Fanning, a registered nurse in the emergency room, faces one count 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.

Mr. Fanning, who was hired by Samaritan in June 2010 and moved to the emergency department in August, is accused of having “several controlled substance withdrawal, administration and wasting discrepancies” between December and April, state police said.

The charges stem from allegations that Mr. Fanning illegally dispensed dosages of Percocet, morphine and Valium from the hospital’s auditing system.

Percocet is a brand of drug that contains oxycodone, a narcotic medication used to treat moderate to severe pain.Morphine is a narcotic painkiller, and Valium is used to treat anxiety disorders, alcohol withdrawal symptoms or muscle spasms and can also be taken with other medicines to treat seizures.

As with the first three arrested nurses, an auditing system revealed Mr. Fanning improperly dispensed narcotics, police said.

He was processed at the Watertown state police station, issued an appearance ticket for City Court and released.

State police said the four arrests are not linked; they were separate incidents.

All four arrests were a result of separate investigations by a state Department of Health investigator and the Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, officials said.

In the past several days, three traveling nurses in the emergency room were arrested and fired after similar investigations.

The other three nurses are Patricia A. Shea, 52, of 1030 Arsenal St.; Heather L. Graham, 41, Ithaca, and Dawn R. Harrison, 46, Dolgeville.

Traveling nurses work under contract to help ease nursing shortages.

Hired through different agencies, the traveling nurses did not provide truthful information during the interview process about their licenses, said hospital spokeswoman Krista A. Kittle.

Ms. Kittle could not provide details about whether the nurses were selling the medications or using them.

Explaining why the arrests occurred in such a short time, she said the discrepancies were revealed “during the same auditing cycle.”

She credited the emergency room’s leadership with catching the discrepancies, initiating the investigations and improving the auditing system since the problems came to light.

The hospital does not expect any further arrests.

“This is the last that we’re aware of,” Ms. Kittle said.

Samaritan has scheduled a press conference for Monday to discuss the nurses’ arrests and the systems in place to uncover, investigate and act upon those types of incidents.

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