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Hospital nurse charged with painkiller theft

April 19, 2000|By MARLO BARNHART

A registered nurse with 30 years of experience in the birthing center at Washington County Hospital has been charged with stealing seven narcotic painkiller tablets meant for her patients.

Barbara Jean Tingle, 49, of 18304 Woodside Drive in Hagerstown, was issued a criminal summons Tuesday charging her with misdemeanor theft and prescription fraud, according to records in Washington County District Court.

Tingle, who wasn't taken into custody, is employed by the hospital but is working in an area where she does not dispense medication, according to court records.

As a result of a positive test result for Percocet, Tingle is in rehabilitation for an alleged substance abuse problem, court records said.

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If convicted, Tingle could face up to 18 months in jail for the theft and up to two years for the fraud charge, court records said.

Hagerstown City Police Sgt. Rick Johnson's investigation revealed at least seven Percocet tablets were removed from a medication dispenser at the hospital between Feb. 1-5 but were not dispensed.

Interviews with a number of patients revealed the tablets weren't given to post-partum patients in the birthing center, court records said. Some said they didn't get any "blue" tablets while others told police they got one instead of two tablets as noted on hospital charts.

The tablets have a monetary value of four cents each, court records said.

In early February, discrepancies began showing up in the counts of Percocet tablets dispensed and those actually administered to patients. The hospital immediately launched an internal investigation, court records said.

Computer sign-ins were checked and patients were interviewed, court records said.

As a result of that investigation, Tingle was called in for a meeting with hospital officials Feb. 4 and denied any wrongdoing, court records said.

Tingle later told police she suffered from tennis elbow and had a prescription for Percocet during the summer of 1999, court records said.

She was fired from the hospital on Feb. 7, according to court records. It wasn't known when she was rehired.

Hospital spokesman Maureen Theriault had no official comment on the case.

Tingle was offered a drug screening that came back negative for Percocet but was later retested and found to have a positive reading for the painkiller, court records alleged.

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