30 Hospital Staffers Fired in Drug Probe

Times Staff Writer

Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla has fired 30 employees from "all levels of the workforce" because of an undercover inquiry into employee drug use by a private investigative firm, administrators announced Wednesday.

Four of the fired employees were arrested Tuesday by San Diego police, said spokeswoman Sgt. Anne O'Dell.

The employees were terminated Tuesday after Confidential Management Service presented its findings to hospital management, said Martin Buser, the hospital's chief administrator.

He said those fired came from nine hospital departments and included nurses, technicians and administrators.

There is no indication that patients were in any danger because of the employee drug use, Buser said. "We have a pretty clear belief there hasn't been any instance that a patient's care would have been adversely affected. There might have been (an employee) in a patient care situation that had used drugs the day before, but there is no reason to believe someone was under the influence at the time they were helping someone."

The private investigative firm was hired "a few months" ago by the hospital administrators after some of the hospital's 1,500 employees as well as some physicians approached them with allegations that drugs were being bought, sold and used on hospital grounds, he said.

"They found it was street drugs--cocaine, crack, crystal meth and marijuana--that was being used and sometimes sold," Buser said. "There was no indication prescription drugs were being used or sold illegally by employees."

Hospital chief of staff John K. Cherry said, "Naturally, our medical staff was appalled at the news, but realistically, we are all aware of the prevalence of drug abuse in our society."

One of those fired, Thomas Ward Lewis, 26, of La Jolla, was arrested on two felony counts of sale of cocaine and possession of cocaine with intent to sell, O'Dell said.

Police allege Lewis had about 18 grams of cocaine in his possession at the time of his arrest, which was not made on the hospital grounds, according to O'Dell.

Clarke Irwin Zeman, 25, of San Diego was arrested on one count of sale of marijuana; Jeffrey Alan Trulinger, 30, of San Diego was arrested on two counts of sale of marijuana and Scott Eliott Mosley, 28, of Encinitas was arrested on one count of sale of cocaine, O'Dell said. The three arrests were made on hospital grounds, she added.

Lewis, Zeman and Mosley were operating-room surgical aides, and Trulinger was a supervisor in the housekeeping department, she said.

Lewis is being held at the downtown San Diego County Jail on $20,000 bail. The other three are being held there on $15,000 bail, a jail spokeswoman said.

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