The state of Iowa has suspended the license of a nurse who allegedly stole medication from elderly nursing home residents.
State records show that a Fort Dodge man was mowing his yard in August 2019 when he found a purse that had been thrown in the bushes near his property. When he and his wife looked in the purse, they found several small, white envelopes containing pills, along with an employee ID card belonging to Pamela Hook, a nurse at QHC Villa Nursing Home in Fort Dodge.
The couple returned the purse to the home, where QHC mansion administrator Penny Moellers found the envelopes were of the same type used by the facility and contained trazodone, atarax, lorazepam and seroquel.
Hook reportedly admitted the purse was hers and said she left it in her locked car before embarking on a trip. When asked about the pills in the purse, Hook reportedly said little, except that the trazedone pills belonged to her, according to state records.
When asked why one of the envelopes had the name of a 96-year-old QHC resident on it, Hook reportedly didn’t answer. When Moellers told Hook she was on suspension pending investigation into the matter, Hook allegedly became angry and began yelling and berating Moellers while questioning Moellers’ authority to search her purse, according to state records.
Moellers later found that Hook appeared to have dispensed more medication “on demand” to residents than other nurses at the home. She fired Hook, who then filed for unemployment benefits, claiming the pills belonged to her and her daughter. She was denied benefits after she allegedly admitted to an investigator with the state’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit that she took the pills from the facility and that they were labeled with the name of the resident who had been prescribed the drug.
When Hook was later questioned by another state investigator, she allegedly denied any wrongdoing, saying she only confessed because she was “tired and tired of the whole cop” and wanted to “dissuade the other investigator from me.”
The Department of Inspections and Appeals released a report showing that an allegation of dependent adult abuse was substantiated against Hook. In 2020, Hook appealed that verdict.
After a hearing on the matter, Administrative Judge Barbara Tapscott ruled against Hook, noting several conflicting statements Hook had made to investigators. “She doesn’t offer an explanation of how this person could have gotten their purse, planted medicine in it, and put it in the bushes,” Tapscott said.
Hook’s name was then added to the state abuse registry, and the Iowa Board of Nursing charged Hook with misappropriating medication.
A hearing was held at which Hook continued to deny stealing medication from residents and said she often kept such medication in her purse so she could deliver it to residents of the care center more quickly. At the same hearing, she suggested the drugs might have been planted in her purse.
After Hook found he lacked credibility, the board voted to suspend her license indefinitely, though she is eligible for reinstatement after completing a drug abuse investigation and recommended treatment. Upon reinstatement, their license will be put on probation for one year, subject to supervision and other conditions imposed by the Board.
In its decision, the board praised Hook, saying she “is passionate about nursing and cares about her patients. She was very popular with her colleagues.
Board takes other disciplinary action
In unrelated matters, the Board recently reported that it has taken action in several other disciplinary cases:
– Drug consumption: In July and August of last year, Alissa Byers of Sioux City was convicted of domestic assault, possession of marijuana, possession of oxycodone and one charge of fraudulently purchasing a prescription drug. She has also been diagnosed with a severe opiate and cannabis disorder, according to the Board of Nursing.
After Byers was convicted, the board charged Byers with fraudulently using blank prescriptions while employed at an Iowa clinic. The board recently agreed to settle the case by placing Byers’ license on probation for at least 12 months.
Court records show that Byers was working at the Tri-State Specialists Clinic in Sioux City when the crimes took place. Prosecutors alleged that Byers submitted 21 prescriptions to two pharmacies over a 14-month period on her husband’s behalf without his knowledge and for her own use.
She then submitted an additional 19 prescriptions in her own name and for her own use to three different pharmacies, according to prosecutors. She was also accused of deceiving a doctor at the clinic into approving controlled substance opiates for various patients – replacing the patients’ names on the prescriptions with her own name and then altering the patient’s records in the Tri-State computer system conceals their actions.
In a previous March 2020 disciplinary hearing, the Board of Nursing ordered Byers to undergo seven hours of training after she alleged she attempted to rig a pre-employment drug test by using someone else’s urine. At the time, Byers tested positive for a prescription pain reliever she didn’t have a valid prescription for, the board noted.
— Illicit supply of medicinal products: In June, the board charged Nicole Siebels of Monticello with improper delegation of nursing duties. According to the board, Siebels was working as the manager of an assisted living center when, on several occasions, she provided her computer login credentials to an uncertified employee. She did this, the board said, so the other worker could document in the medical record that residents received their medication when she was off duty.
The board agreed to settle the case by demanding that Siebels receive 30 hours of critical thinking training. The panel did not identify the assisted living center where Siebels worked or whether the residents actually received their medication.
— Patient data: In January, the Iowa Board of Nursing charged Danielle Chambers of Council Bluffs with violating a patient’s confidentiality or privacy rights. The board claimed that around April 20, 2021, while employed at a hospital, Chambers used her personal cellphone to “record a medical incident involving a patient and share it on social media.” .
The board’s public indictment makes no reference to the hospital where Chambers worked, the nature of the medical event, or whether the social media post included audio or video recording.
The board recently approved a settlement agreement in the case, which provides that while Chambers retains her license in full force, she is required to complete 30 hours of training on the federal law on portability and accountability of health information.
According to board documents, Chambers’ driver’s license was temporarily suspended in 2016, three years after she was convicted of drunk driving and a year after she was convicted of fraudulently obtaining or attempting to obtain a prescription. At the time, Chambers was practicing under the name Danielle Frigge.