Ex-nurse Kacye Unruh accused of taking fentanyl from University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora

DENVER -- Prosecutors say a former University of Colorado Hospital nurse is accused of stealing vials of a potent painkiller and replacing them with other substances to cover it up.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Denver said 30-year-old Kacye Unruh was arrested Thursday after being indicted on charges including tampering with a consumer product, deceitfully obtaining a controlled substance and making false statements.

Unruh was being held in jail Friday, and records don't list an attorney who could comment on her behalf. She worked in the dialysis unit at the hospital from May 13 to July 13 of this year. 

The hospital says security identified Unruh in July as possibly mishandling or taking the drug in the dialysis unit and she was promptly fired. The Colorado State Board of Nursing suspended her license shortly thereafter. 

The University of Colorado Hospital has no evidence that any patients were harmed, but out of an abundance of caution, the hospital says it contacted less than 50 patients and recommended testing for hepatitis C.

There is no evidence of infection transmission at this time, the hospital said in a statement. The hospital says she did not have access to non-dialysis patients or other areas of the hospital.

She is also accused of lying to a special agent with the Food and Drug Administration about taking drugs from an Oklahoma medical facility where she also worked.

Colorado is one of only six states that doesn’t require background checks for doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals who apply for a license.

Representative Susan Lontine is introducing a bill to change this.

“In the past professions have pushed back on this because I think they had a lot of misconceptions about what that meant. ‘Oh it’s going to be really expensive. We don’t want to pay anymore to get our license and it’s a barrier’ and all of that. But I have to say now they have recognized that this is an issue of patient safety,” said Lontine.

Lontine says how this bill will come together is a work in progress, but one challenge is the cost.

Universal background checks for medical workers would cost $5 million and double the size of the Colorado Bureau of investigation’s department.

Lontine says the idea is to pay for it through fees associated with licensing.

Earlier this year legislators passed a law requiring all surgical techs and medical assistants to be fingerprinted after being hired.

This was in response to Swedish Medical surgical tech Rocky Allen who exposed thousands of patients to HIV while stealing fentanyl.

Allen is accused of doing the same in other states. 

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