A Massachusetts nurse has been arrested for allegedly stealing morphine meant for veterans at the VA hospital in Bedford, the U.S. District Attorney's office said Wednesday.
Kathleen Noftle, 55, of Tewksbury was charged in federal court with diverting morphine while employed as a nurse in the hospice unit at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center campus in Bedford.
She appeared in federal court in Boston Wednesday and was released on conditions including that she seek substance abuse treatment. She covered her face outside court and wouldn't answer questions about the allegations.
Noftle allegedly used her position as a nurse to obtain doses of morphine that were meant to be given to the veterans under her care in the hospice unit, U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling's office said in a statement.
Noftle told federal agents that she mixed water with a portion of the liquid morphine doses, then administered the diluted medication to patients, the statement said. Noftle allegedly took a diluted amount of the remaining drug.
Lelling's office said one veteran experienced increased difficulty breathing and additional suffering in his final days due to the diluted doses.
Noftle was charged with one count of obtaining a controlled substance by misrepresentation, fraud, deception and subterfuge and one count of tampering with a consumer product.
Joan Clifford, director of the VA medical center in Bedford, said Noftle was fired over the alleged behavior.
“These allegations run completely counter to (the) VA’s values, that’s why we terminated this individual and reported her behavior to VA’s independent inspector general," Clifford said in a statement.
Noftle resigned from her position as a nurse at a different hospital for wasting narcotics on 60 occasions, the statement said.
"To put anyone through that, for personal gain? And a nurse?" said an incredulous John O'Connor, an Air Force veteran who commands the Bedford American Legion.
Noftle still has a nursing license but is not allowed to practice at this time.