Thursday, June 4, 2020

Marina nurses hooked on opioids steal drug to suppress ‘pain’

Scores of nurses and possibly other medical professionals at Princess Marina hospital are at the centre of investigations following mysterious disappearance of a habit forming drug ÔÇô pethidine – in large quantities.

The hospital is said to be running short of the medication due to theft.

Information passed to this publication suggests scores of health professionals are said to taking pethidine illegally. Pethidine is a habit forming drug that is often used in patience that have immense pain.

Pethidine, also known as Meperidine, is used to help relieve moderate to severe pain. It may also be used before and during surgery or other procedures. Meperidine belongs to a class of drugs known as opioid (narcotic) analgesics and is similar to morphine. It works in the brain to change how the body feels and responds to pain.

It has a risk for abuse and addiction, which can lead to overdose and death. Meperidine may also cause severe, possibly fatal, breathing problems. To lower the risk, a doctor should have the patient use the smallest dose of meperidine that works, and use it for the shortest possible time.

It is understood that following the mysterious theft of the drug, the hospital is experiencing acute shortage of the medication especially at orthopaedic wards and patients are left helpless.

Responding to the Sunday Standard queries, Princess Marina Hospital spokesperson Donnell Kutlapye confirmed that last year there was pethidine theft at the female ward.

“It is true that there was pethidine theft at the Female Orthopaedic Ward last November” said Kutlapye.

He explained that since the matter is still under police investigations he was not at liberty to divulge further information regarding quantities.

He added that the hospital has reported the incidences to the Botswana Health Professions Council and the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Botswana.  

He strongly denied allegations that the hospital is experiencing serious shortages of the drug.

“The hospital is not in shortage of the drug”.

Her emphases that Pethidine drug is a habit forming drug hence it is a controlled substance which is always under lock and key.

He said the hospital has re-sensitized staff on proper use of pethidine.

As a way of curbing such incidents, Kutlapye stated that the hospital has also installed new cabinets since the old ones were damaged and introduced weekly audits of the drug use.

He however stated that the medication is administered on patients with immense pain therefore no health professional are allowes to use it. “At the moment we have suspects who have been reported to the police,” he said.

He further stated that If the hospital notice any untoward behaviour or health professionals illegally using the drug, appropriate administration action will be taken.

The station commander of Central Police station in Gaborone superintendent Mothusi Phadi said on the 12th of last November his station received a report from Princess Marina hospital that a certain drug called pethidine was allegedly stolen by staff at the female ward.

He said soon after receiving the report, investigations then started and few days later a suspect was identified who is a nurse.

He said once they have completed their investigation, the suspects will be arraigned before a court of law.

A Gaborone based lawyer Bathusitse Mooketsi of Ngitami and Ngitami attorneys has confirmed to this publication that she is representing about four nurses linked to the alleged theft.

“At the moment I would not want to disclose what my clients are being charged for,” she said.  

The four are to appear before a disciplinary committee in which I will challenge the charges that they are being accused of by the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Botswana

When contacted for comment, Hannah Kau-Kigo, Registrar of Nursing and Midwifery Council of Botswana said she was not ready to discuss the matter with the media.

However some health professionals told this publication under condition of anonymity that “it is true that most of us are using such a drug and is unfortunate that some have been identified.”

They said though the drug is addictive and administered under close supervision, they use the drug due to the work load and other social circumstances that they often find themselves in.

“Our fear is that some of us might lose our jobs if such investigations can be extended to other hospitals throughout the country,” said the sources.

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