Hospital details drug thefts

The theft ring at Parkland Hospital in Dallas was discovered and self-reported to all appropriate agencies by Parkland's director of pharmacy services, Vivian Johnson, according to a letter the hospital sent to the State Board of Pharmacy.

In that letter, obtained by Healthcare Risk Management, the hospital explains that once Johnson discovered the thefts, Parkland conducted its own investigation and spent about $1.3 million in system upgrades, additional security measures, and an independent review by Ernst & Young.

The Parkland Police Department's investigation at the Parkland Prescription Center led to the arrest and indictment of Sharron Benson, a pharmacy technician, who confessed to the diversions at the prescription center, according to the hospital's letter. Benson has been indicted and is awaiting trial. The police investigation at the Parkland Community Oriented Primary Care Southeast Pharmacy led to the arrest and indictment of several Parkland pharmacy technicians, a drug dealer, and the husband of one of the technicians, according to the letter.

"These individuals were involved in a conspiracy to steal controlled substances from Southeast and sell them on the street," the hospital's letter says.

The pharmacist in charge of the prescription centers was fired for alerting the pharmacy technicians that they were being investigated, the hospital reports. That pharmacist was one of the people arrested.

Parkland tells the State Board of Pharmacy that the losses were not the result of a failure to properly oversee the pharmacies. At the time of the loss, the sites of the theft had cameras, locked controlled substance cabinets, card access for cabinets and entrances, and comprehensive policies and procedures that conformed with federal and state law, the letter says.

"Some criminally intentioned individuals simply decided to steal," the letter explains.

Parkland emphasizes in the letter that it had discovered the drug theft on its own, conducted an investigation, and terminated five employees. The hospital has already spent more than $1 million to prevent a recurrence of the drug theft, and it has implemented a significant loss prevention program that included the hiring of a drug diversion officer.