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Nurse pleads to pill theft

July 20, 2000

Nurse pleads to pill theft



By MARLO BARNHART / Staff Writer


Washington County District Judge Noel Spence ordered a pre-sentence investigation into the background of a registered nurse Thursday after the woman pleaded guilty to stealing seven narcotic painkiller tablets meant for patients.

Barbara Jean Tingle had 30 years of experience in the birthing center at Washington County Hospital when she was charged with misdemeanor theft and prescription fraud on April 18.

"I'm interested in knowing about possible addiction ... I want a full picture," Spence said.

For her guilty plea to misdemeanor theft, Tingle could face 18 months in jail.

Assistant Washington County State's Attorney Michelle Flores told Spence Thursday she would not oppose defense attorney Martin Palmer's request for probation before judgment.

While not ruling that out, Spence said he needed more information.

Tingle, 49, of 18304 Woodside Drive, Hagerstown, is still employed by the hospital but is working in an area where she is not allowed to dispense medication, according to court records.

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

"The hospital is monitoring her and she is doing well in treatment," Palmer 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 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 administered to patients and the hospital launched an internal investigation, court records said.

As a result of that investigation, Tingle was called in for a meeting with hospital officials Feb. 4 where she 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. Information on when she was rehired was not available.

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