DES MOINES, Iowa -- More than 700 patients at UnityPoint Methodist Medical Center were impacted by a hospital employee who was tampering with the patients' pain medication, according to the hospital itself.
The unidentified employee has been placed on administrative leave and is accused of taking pain medication intended for patients and replacing it with saline.
A staff member noticed the behavior on Oct. 6 and reported it to supervisors.
UnityPoint says the pharmacy technician in question worked at the hospital for six weeks.
In a statement issued in response to the revelations, UnityPoint said, "We deeply regret the actions of one of our employees, and apologize for any uncertainty or anxiety this may cause for patients and their families that put their trust in us."
The Drug Enforcement Administration and the Iowa Board of Pharmacy are both investigating.
"Obviously theft of a controlled substance, especially putting patients at risk is a crime, so we`ll work with law enforcement," said Andrew Funk, Executive Director, Iowa Board of Pharmacy.
One matter has already been resolved.
"I could easily comment on the status of the individual that, his license or registration that he holds with the Board and I will tell you that that registration is canceled," said Funk. "It was requested to be canceled by the individual, so our Board has not taken any formal action. We have due process that we have to follow, but the individual had written into the Board and asked for the registration to be canceled."
Without that registration, the individual will not be able to find work in this field.
"So once it`s been canceled in our database, any pharmacy that would attempt to employ the individual, they would verify whether or not they were active and licensed or registered, in this case with our Board and they would see that that`s been cancelled, so that would be public information," said Funk.
UnityPoint says it is working diligently to make sure patients that may have been affected are informed, get their questions answered, and receive the follow-up care they may want in order to decrease their worry.