Missing vials of narcotics spur legal battle at hospital

Posted: Updated:
EAST MEADOW -

Officials say vials of powerful narcotics were drained with a syringe and replaced with water at Nassau University Medical Center's intensive care unit, and the discovery prompted a legal battle that has pit the hospital against its own employees.

Officials at the East Meadow hospital say 27 vials of fentanyl, phenobarbital, morphine and other drugs that were kept in a secure storage unit in the ICU had been tampered with. The discovery was made on July 23, and the following day the hospital ordered all staff members with access to the vials to undergo drug testing.

But the union representing nurses rejected the order, citing the employees' rights.

The union says it was told by NUMC that the Nassau County district attorney and the Federal Drug Administration told the hospital's acting CEO and medical director to disregard the union demands and instead test all employees who had access to the drugs. The Nassau DA's office says it is "not aware of any employee issuing that directive to the hospital."

Officials say 25 employees with access to the storage unit submitted urine tests, but the nurses' union sued to prevent the results of the tests from being released. The union argued that a collective bargaining agreement prevented administrators from randomly drug testing workers, and that there first needed to be probable cause that indicated substance use by employees.

A state Supreme Court justice on Monday approved a compromise in which the test results would be delivered to the judge with a list of the substances that were missing, instead of releasing the full drug test results to the hospital, in order to protect employee privacy.

News 12 asked the hospital whether any patients who needed the drugs were given water. The hospital said patient safety was not in danger.

NUMC said in a statement:

"Upon discovery of the unauthorized removal of narcotics from a secure storage container at Nassau University Medical Center, hospital officials immediately launched an internal investigation of the incident and notified all appropriate law enforcement authorities. In the interest of patient and staff safety, we have asked for cooperation from several faculty members who had access to the secure location where the drugs were stored. In accordance with hospital policies, and local, state, and federal reporting requirements, the hospital will continue its investigation, with the cooperation of law-enforcement, until the incident is resolved."

NUMC declined to comment further, citing the pending investigation.

  • SlideshowsGalleriesMore>>

  • 2019 PGA Championship Photos

    2019 PGA Championship Photos

    Are you attending the PGA Championship?  News 12 wants to see your photos!
    Are you attending the PGA Championship?  News 12 wants to see your photos!
  • Dog Day Fridays for May 17

    Dog Day Fridays for May 17

    Friday, May 17 2019 11:13 AM EDT2019-05-17 15:13:26 GMT
    Scruff is a cute little girl looking for love! This shaggy dog came from Puerto Rico and is ready for a whole new life. She would do well in a home with other dogs, children of any age, and can even live amongst cats.Scruff is a cute little girl looking for love! This shaggy dog came from Puerto Rico and is ready for a whole new life. She would do well in a home with other dogs, children of any age, and can even live amongst cats.
    Scruff is a cute little girl looking for love! This shaggy dog came from Puerto Rico and is ready for a whole new life. She would do well in a home with other dogs, children of any age, and can even live amongst cats.Scruff is a cute little girl looking for love! This shaggy dog came from Puerto Rico and is ready for a whole new life. She would do well in a home with other dogs, children of any age, and can even live amongst cats.
    This week's pets are up for adoption at Southampton Animal Shelter. The shelter is located at 102 Old Riverhead Road West in Hampton Bays. Their phone number is 631-728-7387.
    This week's pets are up for adoption at Southampton Animal Shelter. The shelter is located at 102 Old Riverhead Road West in Hampton Bays. Their phone number is 631-728-7387.
  • Great South Bay Music Festival 2019

    Great South Bay Music Festival 2019

    Performers at the Great South Bay Music Festival in Patchogue July 18 - July 21.
    Performers at the Great South Bay Music Festival in Patchogue July 18 - July 21.
sorry to interrupt
your first 20 are free
Access to News 12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Spectrum Networks® and Service ElectricSM customers.
Please enjoy 20 complimentary views of articles, photos, and videos during the next 30 days.
you have reached your 20 view limit
Access to News 12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Spectrum Networks® and Service ElectricSM customers.
Please login or create an account to continue enjoying News12.
Our sign-up page is undergoing maintenance and is not currently available. However, you will be given direct access to news12.com while we complete our upgrade.
When we are back up and running you will be prompted at that time to complete your sign in. Until then, enjoy the local news, weather, traffic and more that's "as local as local news gets."