Pikeville Medical Center set to pay more than $4.3 million in settlement

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Published: Dec. 7, 2022 at 4:32 PM EST
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PIKE COUNTY, Ky. (WYMT) - Pikeville Medical Center (PMC) entered into a settlement agreement with the Department of Justice (DOJ) earlier this week.

PMC agreed to pay more than $4.39 million.

The settlement is the third-largest ever obtained from a hospital system under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

Settlement documents said, over a two year period, PMC violated multiple provisions of the CSA relating to recordkeeping.

The violations happened between January 1, 2016 and September 7, 2018.

Officials with the DOJ said PMC failed to keep complete and accurate inventories and dispensing records for Schedule II controlled substances.

DOJ officials also said a PMC pharmacy technician was able to divert more than 60,000 dosage units of oxycodone, hydrocodone and methadone from the narcotics vault.

The controlled substances were later distributed by the pharmacy technician’s husband to the community.

“As the opioid crisis continues to plague communities in Kentucky, hospitals like PMC have a responsibility and critical role to play. They must ensure that controlled substances are carefully tracked and protected against theft and loss, so that these drugs are not diverted for illegal uses,” said Carlton S. Shier, IV, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky. “My office will continue to seek appropriate civil penalties from healthcare providers who are careless with their recordkeeping and fail to provide effective safeguards against drug diversion.”

The pharmacy technician and her husband pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute Schedule II controlled substances.

Officials with PMC said the issue was immediately reported to authorities, and they have cooperated throughout the investigation.

“The employee that was involved in this - again, that had been involved in doing this for the two-year period - was immediately terminated. When we look again at patient safety and the care of our patients being our top priority, I can also confirm that no patients were ever deprived of any medication or ever harmed by any of the results of the staff member’s action - by this particular staff member’s action,” Donovan Blackburn, President and CEO of PMC, said.

Following the incident, PMC implemented more than $4 million in security upgrades.

“We are deeply concerned this incident occurred and stand committed to the safety and well-being of our patients and staff. We have taken multiple steps and invested in new technology to better detect and prevent medication diversion in our facility. Pikeville Medical Center and our current leadership is committed to being the provider and employer of choice for healthcare in the southeastern Kentucky community by providing quality care to our patients,” PMC staff said in a news release.

As part of the settlement, Pikeville Medical Center entered into a three-year Memorandum of Agreement with Drug Enforcement Agency, which prescribes the hospital’s drug-handling responsibilities going forward.