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Former nurse anesthetist sentenced to three years for Floyd County Medical Center drug thefts

By Bob Steenson,

A certified nurse anesthetist who admitted to stealing opioid drugs for his own use at the Floyd County Medical Center has been sentenced to almost three years in federal prison for drug tampering and illegally acquiring controlled substances.

Christopher Scott West, age 45, of Charles City, had been charged in March 2019 in U.S. District Court with tampering with a consumer product; possession of a firearm by a drug user; and acquiring and attempting to acquire a controlled substance by misrepresentation, fraud, deception and subterfuge.

West, who had been working under an independent contract with the Floyd County Medical Center since 2017, pleaded guilty to stealing drugs from the hospital and using them himself, and to actions that resulted in injury or reduced care to some patients in the hospital’s surgery and birthing centers. The firearms charge was dismissed.

According to information from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Iowa, the evidence showed that from February through Sept. 7, 2018, West used his nursing licenses to gain access to fentanyl and sufentanil at the medical center and used the drugs himself.

“In order to avoid getting caught, West perforated tamper-proof paper around the vials, carefully opened the vials, replaced the drugs in the vials with saline, glued the vials shut, and placed the vials back in the hospital’s secure dispensaries in the surgery and birthing centers,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

The medical center discovered West’s actions on Sept. 7, 2018, when a visitor discovered West passed out in a public bathroom. He had a rubber tourniquet and empty and full vials of propofol, another drug used in anesthesia, in his coat pocket.

An investigation by the hospital discovered 28 tampered vials of fentanyl and 15 tampered vials of sufentanil in secure dispensaries.

West admitted to administering three different types of anesthetic to a young patient so that he would have narcotics left over for his own use, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

“The patient suffered complications from his surgery and required an extra day in the hospital and intermittent catheterizations,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Further review of West’s procedures showed he had purported to use fentanyl in colonoscopies and cataract surgeries, and had sometimes given too little spinal anesthesia to women in labor to reduce their pain level, so that they then required general anesthesia, the attorney’s office report said.

West was sentenced by U.S.District Court Judge C.J. Williams to 34 months in prison on each count, to be served concurrently, was fined $15,000, ordered to make $31,998 in restitution to the medical center and ordered to forfeit his nursing license and his certified nurse anesthetist license.

West must serve a three-year-term of supervised release after he gets out of prison. There is no parole in the federal prison system. He was also ordered to pay $3,158 in court costs.

U.S. Attorney Peter Deegan said, “By his selfish actions, Mr. West took advantage of his trusted position at his local community hospital. He endangered the health and very lives of patients at the hospital. This sentence sends a clear message that such dangerous behavior will not be tolerated.”

West was released on the bond previously set and is to surrender to the U.S. Marshal Service on a date yet to be set.

The case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and investigated by the Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations, the Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement and the Charles City Police Department.