CHARLESTON – State Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry is calling the inaction by a board that oversees state nurses on two complaints that allege a nurse was stealing prescription drugs inexcusable.

The court ruled March 12 to dismiss complaints filed against Jennifer Fillinger with the state Board of Examiners for Registered Professional Nurses. Fillinger alleged her due process rights had been violated as a result of the board delaying her case.

The board continued several hearings, and the Supreme Court ruled it had prevented Fillinger from contesting the accusations against her.

Loughry wrote that the result of the case has far-reaching implications for the 30,000 nursing professionals subject to the board’s authority and for the patients they serve.

“In many ways, nurses are the backbone of our entire healthcare system,” Loughry wrote. They advocate for health promotion, dispense medications, educate patients and the public on the prevention of illness and injury.

“They also make doctors aware of any changes in a patient’s status that may require attention and often provide emotional and physical support to patients. The quality of nursing care can sometimes make the difference between life and death.

“It is inexcusable that the board allowed this matter to go unresolved for five years. For the health, safety and welfare of the patients under nurses’ care, it is my hope that the board will take a serious look at its inaction in the handling of this matter to make certain this does not occur in the future.”

Fillinger was fired from Charleston Area Medical Center in 2008 as a result of data collected in a machine that dispensed medicine for patients. It said use authorized by her pass code did not correlate with either drug inventories or patient records.

CAMC concluded she was unlawfully obtaining prescription narcotics for personal use or distribution.

In 2009, she was fired by Logan Regional Medical Center based on data from a similar type of machine. She says she has volunteered for and passed drug tests and has never been accused or investigated by any law enforcement agency.

From the West Virginia Record: Reach John O'Brien at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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