Anaesthetic technician struck off for drug use

An Auckland anaesthetic technician who blamed her drug induced collapses at work on "traumatic events" has been struck off the register by a health watchdog after it was found she was high on drugs she'd stolen from the workplace.

Kristin Lawson, a former anaesthetic technician at Mercy Ascot Hospitals, stole Remifentanil and consumed it several times at home and three times on duty, including one occasion where she administered it intravenously in a women's toilet.  

According to a summary of facts outlined in a report released by the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal today, Lawson attempted to conceal her tracks by making false entries in the hospital's drug registry. 

She was caught following investigations in to her behavior after she fainted in an operating theatre in June last year. 

Her fainting had been a regular occurrence and on this occasion it resulted in her being taken to the emergency room where she blamed a car accident for her dizzy spells and denied any drug use.

However suspicions were aroused when Lawson asked a colleague to co-sign the drugs registry to confirm she had destroyed two vials of the drug she'd stolen, claiming they had expired. 

Senior staff inspected the registry and found Lawson had on multiple occasions destroyed Remifentanil without following proper disposal policy. 

During a disciplinary meeting on July 2 last year Lawson admitted the theft and drug use, again blaming a "nasty car accident" for the abuse, saying she'd had flashbacks, nightmares and insomnia as a result of the crash and the drugs helped her "relax and forget". 

The report noted that Lawson had put her patients at risk with her drug abuse, saying anaesthetists had a "significantly important" role to play in patient care and they should be alert and rested in order to administer the proper supply of anesthetic- a "critical" element, the report said. 

The tribunal cancelled her health practitioner's registration, censured her and ordered her to pay $6,600 towards the cost of the investigation. 

According to the report Lawson had since begun a catering business which she was "extremely happy about".

The tribunal declined her request for name suppression. 

In a written statement Mercy Hospital chief executive Geoff Sparkes said he was confident no patients had been adversley affected by Lawson's actions and that she had worked under the direct supervision of a consultant "and would not have been in a position to give drugs to a patient". 

The hospital had been proactive in taking disciplinary action against Lawson for breaking hospital policies, he said.  

"The technician in question had been suspended immediately (when) the issue came to light in a spot check and an internal investigation was launched," Sparkes said.

"The matter was reported to the Ministry of Health, the Police, and the technician's professional body in accordance with regulations governing the management of controlled drugs and Mercy Hospital policy.  The technician has not worked at the hospital since the suspension."