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Elizabeth Warren to probe morphine diversion by nurse at Bedford VA

Bedford VA Medical Center (Veterans Health/Flickr)
September 30, 2019

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is now among the lawmakers planning to probe how a Bedford VA nurse allegedly diverted morphine from a hospice patient and caused him to suffer the day before he died — their inquiries coming as an investigation into a 2016 death at the facility remains unresolved.

Bay State U.S. Reps. Stephen Lynch and Seth Moulton also told the Herald they’ll be looking into how Kathleen Noftle, 55, of Tewksbury was charged with diversion of a controlled substance and tampering with a consumer product after diluting morphine dosages to three hospice patients during a January 2017 weekend, according to federal court documents filed this week.

Warren is still waiting for answers in the July 2016 death of Vietnam War veteran William R. Nutter Jr. at the Bedford facility — said to have occurred in part because an on-duty nurse who was reportedly playing video games and not conducting required hourly checks on her patient.

“I am sick and tired of seeing horrifying reports about the mistreatment of veterans and employee misconduct at a VA facility in Massachusetts,” Warren said in a statement. “Beyond holding an individual employee accountable, it’s clear by now that the VA must make significant changes at Bedford to ensure that this kind of outrageous behavior never occurs again.”

The nurse in Nutter’s case, Patricia A. Waible, of Nashua, N.H., pleaded guilty this summer to making false statements to investigators, court documents show. But an investigation by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs inspector general remains ongoing, a spokeswoman for the senator told the Herald Friday.

Court documents show Waible lied about conducting hourly “bed checks” on patients during an overnight shift on July 3, 2016. Nutter — referred to only as “Patient 1” in court documents — “suffered from several serious medical ailments” and was “found unresponsive and not breathing” at about 7 that morning.

Warren called on the Department of Veterans’ Affairs inspector general to investigate Nutter’s death and any other problems at the Bedford facility — the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital — in October 2017. She’s asked for updates twice since, most recently last October.

Noftle, the nurse in the recent hospice case, admitted to diverting drugs for two months prior to when employees found six caps said to contain liquid morphine in January 2017, court documents show. She allegedly ingested part of patients’ morphine and diluted the remainder.

One patient, whose wristband Noftle allegedly scanned to give the appearance that a proper dose of morphine was administered, was found in distress 30 minutes after her shift ended and died the next day.

Department of Public Health records show Noftle resigned from Tewksbury Hospital, where she worked for 29 years, after being charged with failure to follow appropriate procedures when wasting narcotics on 60 occasions.


© 2019 the Boston Herald