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Martinsburg VA Medical Center nurse accused of stealing medication

November 06, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- A 59-year-old nurse is accused of stealing medication with which she injected herself during an ongoing surgical procedure at Veterans Affairs Medical Center, according to Berkeley County Magistrate Court records.

Mitzi Karen Churchey, of 67 Thanes Way in Martinsburg, was arraigned Wednesday on one felony count of obtaining a controlled substance by deception or subterfuge.

Churchey was released on a $25,000 personal recognizance bond, records show.

A VAMC public affairs spokesperson said Wednesday that the regional health care provider for veterans was taking appropriate steps to investigate these "serious charges" that were not being taken lightly.

"It would be inappropriate to comment on an ongoing specific investigation," the spokesperson said. "The community can rest assured that our professional staff at the Martinsburg VA Medical Center continues to give excellent medial care to our veterans."

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Churchey is still employed at the medical center.

According to a complaint filed by Berkeley County Sheriff's Deputy Sgt. B.F. Hall, Churchey admitted that she intentionally placed herself in the role of "monitoring nurse" with a plan to steal Fentanyl medication, which was prescribed by an anesthesiologist for a patient in the operating room Oct. 3, 2008.

Another nurse in the operating room told a Department of Veterans Affairs investigator that the defendant appeared sleepy and saw Churchey "closing her eyes repeatedly" after she apparently injected one milliliter of Fentanyl into her right wrist, Hall said in his report.

Fentanyl is an often abused painkilling drug that is more potent than morphine, according to webmd.com.

Hall said in his complaint that Churchey admitted to filling a syringe labeled Fentanyl with one milliliter of saline taken from the patient's intravenous tubing. After administering one milliliter of Fentanyl from a second syringe that initially contained two milliliters of the medication, Churchey allegedly took the one milliliter remaining, injected it and left the syringe containing saline next to a second medication that also was administered to the patient, Hall said.

The Veterans Affairs investigator told Hall that he saw older puncture marks on Churchey's right wrist in addition to the mark allegedly made last month.

The nurse who talked with investigators said that she became suspicious when she saw Churchey draw the saline from the patient's tubing, according to Hall's complaint.

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