Seattle Police are looking for a woman who they say posed as a hospital staffer while apparently trying to steal drugs from machines designed to administer pain medication to patients.
The incident happened April 13 at Swedish Medical Center, although it wasn’t reported until four days later.
As a result, area hospitals have brief employees about the incident.
"The expectation is people in lab coats or dressed as nurses are nurses," said Melissa Danilovs, the wife of a patient .
Hospital staff told police that the woman was seen in a patient’s room manipulating the patient-administered pain medication machine, or PCA. The patient questioned the woman, who then left.
Police said that when the real nurse came into the room, she noticed the line from the PCA to the patient had been cut and that pain medication was dripping on the floor. There were also indications that the suspect had tried to pry the PCA open to get access to the medication.
Police said there was a report a short time later of the same woman looking into patients’ rooms on another floor. A staff member asked the woman what she was doing. She allegedly said she was there to check the PCA machines, which the staffer thought nothing of since two PCAs had recently been taken out of service.
The suspect allegedly went into another patient’s room, where the patient’s family was also present. The family said the suspect acted like she was checking the PCA, but left when the alarm went off. A family member said there was blood dripping on the floor and lines to the patient’s PCA had been cut.
Police said about two feet of tubing from PCAs were taken and possibly some pain medication that was in the tubes.
"I feel sad that they were drive to that extreme, I'm glad nobody was hurt," said Judy Cieplik, who's husband is having surgery at Swedish Medical Center.
The suspect is described as a white, in her mid-30s to 40s. She had shoulder-length blonde hair which was pulled back or in a pony tail. She was wearing a blue blouse, similar to hospital scrubs, black business slacks and shiny black shoes.
The suspect also used medical terminology and answered questions fom hospital staff confidently. Police said she appeared to be comfortable walking into patients’ rooms.
Now that the incident has become public, there is a noticeable change at the hospital.
"A lot of security, police and security in the lobby," said Danilovs.
The hospital is telling patients what happened. Swedish has also launched an internal investigation and is tightening up security.
"If we are approached by a staff member (we're told) to make sure they're wearing their badge at all times and that if they don't have their badge to ask for it," said Cieplik.
The woman made away with very little pain medicine. Police are most worried about the breach of hospital security.