Intensive-Care Nurse Arrested in Drug Use

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A registered nurse has been arrested for allegedly injecting himself with morphine while on duty in the intensive care unit at Burbank Community Hospital, Burbank police said Monday.

James Ross, 40, of Van Nuys was released on his own recognizance after he was arrested at the hospital about 2:30 a.m. Sunday on suspicion of being under the influence of a controlled substance, Sgt. Don Goldberg said. Ross is scheduled to be arraigned Dec. 12 in Burbank Municipal Court, Goldberg said.

A nursing supervisor called police when he saw the man acting unusually and noticed a substantial amount of morphine and Demerol, a brand-name sedative and painkiller, were missing, Goldberg said. The supervisor also said medical records had been altered to increase the quantity of morphine delivered to the unit to more than twice the 18 milligrams originally requested, Goldberg said.

"When police responded and talked to the subject, he displayed all the objective symptoms of someone being under the influence of morphine," including lethargy, slow and deliberate speech and constricted eyes, Goldberg said. Ross also had three fresh puncture wounds on his left arm, and admitted to injecting himself with about 10 milligrams of morphine around midnight Saturday, he said.

Melanie Landman, spokeswoman for Burbank Community Hospital, said patient care was not jeopardized because the supervisor noticed Ross' condition a short time after he took the drugs.

Landman said Ross is employed by Specialty Care Nursing Service Agency, headquartered in the Hancock Park area of Los Angeles, and had worked at the hospital only once before, in late October. The hospital gave him a favorable evaluation for his work on the earlier occasion, she said.

Landman said prospective nurses are screened by the registry for medical problems and are given an orientation before working at Burbank Community Hospital.

A supervisor at Specialty Care refused to comment on the arrest, and said questions from a reporter would have to be submitted to the company in writing before a response could be considered.

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