A New Hampshire woman has been convicted and sentenced on charges that she stole morphine from a nursing home where she worked.
Nina Perez was convicted and sentenced on Jan. 2 on charges of possession of a controlled drug and abuse of a nursing home patient. She is a former licensed practical nurse in New Hampshire. She had pleaded guilty to the charges filed against her in Rockingham County Superior Court. The charges equate to a Class B felony on the drug charge and a misdemeanor on the abuse charge.
Perez stole morphine injections intended for a patient under her care at The Edgewood Centre nursing home home in Portsmouth, N.H. The morphine is considered a controlled drug substance and therefore, stealing it incurs a stiffer penalty. Taking medications that have a clinical benefit for another person for her own personal gain was enough to file charges of abuse against her. She was working as a nurse at the facility in May 2012 when she was found to be taking the morphine supplies for herself.
She will likely serve about six months in prison. She was sentenced to a term of one year at a local prison in Rockingham County but is eligible for early release on good behavior. A sentence of two-to-five years at a state prison was also imposed but it was suspended for three years contingent on good behavior.
Perez’ case was prosecuted through the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. Based on her conviction, the former nurse’s name has been entered into a federal database that bars her from working at any Medicare-accepted facility in the U.S. for a five-year period. Perez also had her nursing license revoked in New Hampshire.
This is just the latest case in a growing trend of nursing home abuse and neglect that puts the nation’s most vulnerable citizens at risk of serious injuries or death. As budgets at the thousands of nursing homes operating in the U.S. get tighter, decisions on staffing and other safety protocols are often made at the expense of the resident and the best quality care they can receive.
Faults in maintaining and adhering to the database which Perez will be entered into have allowed rogue nursing home caretakers and other staff to continue to commit abuse and neglect against thousands of residents across the country. Fewer background checks are performed on prospective employees at nursing homes and there are fewer fraud and abuse prevention measures in place to prevent these acts from happening time after time.