Former Nurse In Douglas Indicted For Stealing, Diluting Narcotics
A federal grand jury indicted a former registered nurse in Douglas on four counts related to stealing narcotics and diluting patients' narcotics, according to U.S. District Court records.
Ryan Joseph Harris was placed on administrative leave from the Memorial Hospital of Converse County in June and had his license suspended by the Wyoming State Board of Nursing
The hospital's Chief Executive Officer Ryan Smith said then that more than 400 patients may have received a weakened form of hydromorphone because of Harris' actions
Hospital spokesman Karl Hertz also said in June the state nursing board, Douglas County attorney and the Wyoming State Board of Pharmacy also were investigating the case.
On Tuesday, the grand jury indicted Harris on four counts with the alleged crimes occurring from Sept. 1, 2016, to June 2:
- Tampering with a consumer product -- 58 vials of hydromorphone (Dilaudid) by removing some or all of the drug and replacing it with saline solution.
- Tampering with a consumer project -- one container of meperidine (Demerol) by removing some or all of the drug and replacing it with saline solution.
- Acquiring a Schedule II controlled substance -- hydromorphone -- by removing it from its container and replacing it with saline solution.
- Acquiring a Schedule II controlled substance -- meperidine -- and replacing it with saline solution.
The first two counts of tampering with a consumer product stated that Harris allegedly committed the crimes "with reckless disregard for the risk that another person would be placed in danger of bodily injury, and under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to such risk...."
If convicted, each of the tampering with a consumer product carries a potential sentence of up to 10 years of imprisonment. Each of the two counts of obtaining controlled substances by deceit or subterfuge carries a potential sentence of up to four years of imprisonment.
At a press conference on June 14, Smith said hospital pharmacy staff on June 2 discovered irregularities in the access of Dilaudid during a routine review of the hospital's automated medication dispensing system. The pharmacy staff found patients who were given Dilaudid may not have received the medication as prescribed.
Hertz told K2 Radio that Harris, who was a registered nurse at the hospital for about seven years, would draw hydromorphone from vials, refilling them with saline. The vials were then distributed to different departments.
"That has complicated the search for which patients were impacted," Hertz said in June. The number of patients affected and the amount of hydromorphone taken by Harris remained unclear, he said.
Harris was personally using the drug, Hertz said. Harris reportedly received hydromorphone while he was a patient at the hospital, which led to what hospital officials said became an addiction.
Harris also tampered with containers of the painkillers Demerol and fentanyl, but Harris' use of those drugs was minimal compared with his use of hydromorphone, Hertz said.
Hertz says Harris admitted to stealing the hydromorphone and has been cooperative ever since. He was immediately suspended.
Any patients who received Dilaudid during that period can call 307-358-7345 to reach a dedicated phone line where hospital staff will answer any questions.