The woman who police say tried to steal IV medication from patients at Swedish Hospital was charged Monday in Seattle Municipal Court – and records show she was a former nurse who pleaded guilty to similar federal charges.
Records also show the woman, Rachel Nezat, has an active license as a registered nurse.
Nezat, 39, was charged Monday with two counts of property destruction and one count of first-degree criminal trespass -- both gross misdemeanors -- by the Seattle City Attorney’s Office. She has not entered a plea and was not booked into King County Jail.
Investigators believe Nezat walked into at least three rooms at Seattle's Swedish Hospital on April 13 and also tampered with a machine that administers drugs. Police said she didn't get away with a large amount of drugs, but she did frighten some patients.
”We're obviously pleased that she's been apprehended so that no patient can be harmed by her,” said Dr. John Vassall, the Chief Medical Officer at Swedish.
In August and September 2008, Nezat accessed quantities of hydromorphone, a Schedule II controlled substance, identified patients to whom such drugs were being administered, and diverted the drugs to her own unauthorized use.
In May 2009, Nezat pleaded guilty to felony offense of acquiring a controlled substance by misrepresentation, deception and subterfuge in violation of federal law. Nezat worked as a Swedish nurse until September 2008.
The Washington Department of Health says Nezat remains licensed to practice nursing, despite the earlier guilty plea.
The first patient in the 2013 investigation woke up while the woman was still in the room. He told police she was tampering with the machine administering his pain medication.
According to the police incident report, a nurse found the line from the machine to the patient had been cut, the medication was dripping on the floor, and there were pry marks on the machine where the woman tried to gain access to the pain medication inside.
Police said the woman looked much like other medical staff and wore a blue blouse that could easily be mistaken for hospital scrubs. Surveillance video showing the woman was distributed in April.
Hospital security said about a 2-foot length of tubing was taken, and there would only have been a very small amount of the drug in the lines. Two other patients in different parts of the hospital reported the same type of incident.
Police said that when confronted by a hospital nurse, Nezat used medical terminology and said she was there to check the machines.
Swedish has stepped up security, while at the same time balancing the need for access for patients and their loved ones.
“What we've done is that we have educated our staff to make sure that they wear their name tags,” Dr. Vassall said, “and that they challenge people who are not wearing their name tags even their colleagues who they know.”