Eau Claire County Judge Jon Theisen had strong words Friday for a former employee of an Altoona nursing home accused of diverting narcotics from residents and keeping them for herself.
“You have betrayed your patients,” Theisen said, telling 48-year-old Sylvia L. Henry, 3224 Midway St., that taking someone’s pain medication and leaving that person to suffer is beyond comprehension.
In a victim impact statement submitted to the court, a former patient said she’d never trust Henry to be a nurse again.
“I think about all the residents, myself included, who had to suffer in pain because she wasn’t giving us the correct medication,” the woman wrote. “… I now find myself wondering about the other nurses and whether or not they are being truthful and doing their jobs correctly.”
Henry’s attorney, Daniel Repka, told Theisen his client had voluntarily relinquished her license and sought treatment.
“Miss Henry is very remorseful,” he said. “She would do anything to take this back.”
Before he sentenced Henry, Theisen gave her a chance to speak.
“I’m sorry,” a tearful Henry told him.
Following the terms of a plea agreement, Theisen sentenced Henry to two years of probation for possession of a controlled substance, intentionally subjecting an individual at risk to abuse and obtaining a prescription with fraud.
As conditions of probation, Henry must maintain absolute sobriety, undergo an alcohol and other drug assessment and follow through with any recommendations, and pay court costs and any restitution requested. She also can’t have any contact with her former employer, Grace Lutheran Communities-River Pines in Altoona, or a number of people identified in court only by their initials.
If Henry successfully completes a 24-month deferred acceptance of a guilty plea agreement, a felony count of theft of movable property with special facts will be dismissed.
Theisen told Henry not to work in health care or reapply for her license.
According to the criminal complaint:
Police met with the director of nursing at River Pines, 206 N. Willson Drive, on Jan. 20, 2018, after a nurse training with Henry witnessed Henry diverting narcotics.
Henry was brought to the office, and she admitted to diverting narcotics but didn’t state the amount of drugs she took or how long she had been doing it.
Henry claimed to the nursing director that she gave the narcotics to her son because he is an addict and becomes violent toward her.
The nurse trainee said when she worked with Henry, residents complained of pain even after Henry gave them their medication.
But when training with other nurses, the trainee said the same residents were not complaining of pain after receiving pain medication.
An investigation showed that instead of giving residents scheduled doses of hydrocodone or Percocet, Henry was giving them Tylenol.
Henry was in charge of the narcotics cart, and all medications were signed off and dispensed by Henry to the nurses for administering to the patients.
When Henry was informed of her firing by a phone call on Jan. 23, 2018, the director of nursing said Henry’s speech was largely unintelligible. The nursing director told police she wasn’t sure if Henry understood she was being fired.
Police officers were sent to Henry’s residence for a welfare check. Henry told the officers she believed they were there to arrest her regarding this case.
It was at this meeting with officers that she admitted to her addiction to painkillers.