Nurse stole meds from patients to feed addiction

Deanne Bartlett gets conditional sentence and probation

Rosie Mullaley
Published on April 12, 2014

By stealing medication from patients at a seniors home, Deanne Bartlett let everyone in her life down, a judge said Friday.

“It was a betrayal of your patients, your family and even yourself,” Judge Mark Linehan said during Bartlett’s sentencing hearing in provincial court. “It’s had a huge impact on your career.”

Bartlett was sentenced to a 15-month conditional sentence, with two years’ probation. Conditions include that she abstain from taking drugs unless prescribed by a doctor.

She pleaded guilty to two counts of possessing a controlled drug (morphine and Dilaudud), two counts of theft under $5,000 and a single count of mischief, relating to altering narcotic control records at Chancellor Park.

The 45-year-old had worked as a licensed practical nurse at Chancellor Park seniors home on Portugal Cove Road, where in October 2012 she stole two vials of morphine and nine tablets of Dilaudud. She then altered the records to try to cover what she did.

Not long after the meds were discovered missing, the son of one of the residents noticed there had been tampering with his mother’s medication.

Bartlett had substituted the woman’s pain medication with Toloxin, a cardiac drug. The woman became ill, but there was no evidence to prove the change of drugs caused her illness. She recovered a short time later.

When confronted about the drugs, Bartlett immediately confessed, admitting she was a drug addict. She was fired from her job.

“I did it,” she told a co-worker, who asked Bartlett about the missing narcotics. “I deserve it.”

Crown prosecutor Scott Kerr said Bartlett breached the trust of those who trusted her the most, which is demonstrated in the victim impact statement from the woman whose medication was switched.

“When this happened, I started to lose trust in people,” the woman wrote. “Not only was she my nurse, she was my best friend. She meant so much to me. I was so excited when she was on shift. When this happened, I was shocked. At first I felt pity for her, but then anger.”

Federal Crown prosecutor Robin Fowler pointed out that Bartlett has lost her job and her future as a nurse is now in jeopardy because of what she did.

Bartlett cried as he spoke.

Defence lawyer Mike King said Bartlett is very remorseful. He said at the age of 40, she started experimenting with drugs, taking Percocet, to cope with stress.

He said in October 2012, during the time of the offences, “she hit rock bottom.”

Being relieved from her job, he said, served as a deterrence and she sought help in addictions counselling. He said she is now in a stable relationship, has a good rapport with her ex-husband and has family support.

He also pointed out that Bartlett’s pre-sentence report was “overwhelmingly positive” and that she has no prior criminal record.

He said even the owner and operator of Chancellor Park described Bartlett as reliable and hard-working, and said she would re-hire Bartlett if she gets back her licence to practice.

“I think that speaks volumes to Ms. Bartlett’s character overall,” King said.

When she got the chance to speak, Bartlett apologized to the court, her family and the victims.

In sentencing, Linehan went along with an agreed recommendation from the lawyers.

He pointed out that swapping medication from an elderly patient is a serious offence.

“The consequences could have been dire,” he said. “(Had it been proven it contributed to the woman’s sickness), you would not have been walking out of here today.”

However, he commended Bartlett for seeking help with her addiction and said he hoped to never see her back in court.

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