Former nurse accused of pilfering painkillers

A former Altoona Regional nurse faces a laundry-list of charges after police say she stole painkillers while on the job.

Holly Sue Harris, 45, of Hollidaysburg was arraigned Friday on 16 drug-law violations, including six felonies, for allegedly pilfering pills while working in the hospital’s emergency room, according to court records.

Harris, a registered nurse, is accused of stealing seven 325 mg Oxycodone 5 pills, one 325 mg Hydrocodone 10 tablet, five 325 mg Hydrocodone 7.5 pills and 19 tablets of 325 mg Hydrocodone 5 along with a vial of morphine between March 5 and May 30, Altoona Regional Health System police note in charges filed before Magisterial District Judge Jeffrey Auker.

Altoona Regional managers reported Harris to police May 31, and the hospital provided a detailed account of each time Harris allegedly stole the medication, usually one or two pills at a time. Police noted Harris would withdraw the painkillers under the names of emergency room patients. But no doctor would order the medication, and it was never documented that patients received the pills.

Harris would list the pills as sent with patients “to go,” but according to the hospital, the high rate of this type of withdrawal and inconsistencies in paperwork, particularly the lack of doctor’s orders for the medication, was suspicious.

In one instance, on April 19, Harris allegedly signed out a tablet of Hydrocone 7.5 for a patient after the patient was discharged. The doctor in the case had not ordered the medication, and it was never documented as to whether the patient received the painkiller, records show.

On April 29, Harris allegedly withdrew a Oxycodone 5 pill for a patient and not only wasn’t the medication ordered by the doctor, Harris was not involved in the patient’s treatment, police said. On May 11, Harris withdrew medication, a Hydrocodone 5 for a patient who had already received the medication from another nurse.

The latest of the incidents, according to court records, was May 19 when Harris allegedly asked a fellow registered nurse to witness her “waste” two tablets of Oxycodone. The reason she gave the co-worker was the patient had suffered liver failure so the doctor had canceled the order. Police said the nurse who witnessed Harris dispose of the pills said she became concerned because she saw Harris drop an orange-colored pill into a sharps container. The nurse informed a manager who opened the container to find Harris had not dropped Oxycodone into it but rather an aspirin and two Tylenol tablets.

Harris remains free on an unsecured $7,500 bond and is slated to appear July 10 at Central Court for a preliminary hearing. A call to Harris’ attorney, Ansley S. Westbrook II of Pittsburgh, was not returned Friday.