BEDFORD (CBS) – “Am I surprised?” Brigitte Darton said as she sat on the couch in her Fitchburg home. “No.”
She’s referencing a nurse from the VA hospital in Bedford who was arraigned Wednesday, accused of stealing dying veterans’ morphine to ingest herself.
Prosecutors said that on January 13-15, 2017, Kathleen Noftle ingested morphine meant for veterans under her care. She allegedly mixed a portion of it with water from the sink and gave it to patients.
“The investigation revealed that, due to diluted morphine administered by Noftle, one veteran experienced increased difficulty breathing (dyspnea) and increased suffering in his final days,” the U.S. Attorney’s office said in a statement.
The director of the VA said in a statement that the allegations are “completely counter” to the VA’s values. “That’s why we terminated this individual and reported her behavior to VA’s independent inspector general,” said Joan Clifford.
But Brigitte Darton believes there are deeper issues behind the brick walls of the VA. Her dad, Vietnam veteran William Nutter, died at the same hospital in 2016. She says she had dropped him off and left for a planned vacation, only to learn that he died while she was out of the country.
Darton thought it was an unexpected but unavoidable death, until more than a year later when a Boston Globe article with a whistleblower alerted her that his overnight nurse, Patricia Waible, had been charged in federal court, accused of falsifying her overnight reports the night of Darton’s dad’s death.
Instead, Darton says she learned the nurse was playing video games instead of checking on her father, who took a bad turn and died overnight. “So we don’t know if he just passed away or if he suffered for hours,” Darton explained.
“No one from the VA ever called us,” Darton told WBZ. “Ever apologized. Ever really contacted us and took responsibility for it.”
She believes there will always be good and “bad nurses” in some hospitals, but wants the VA held accountable for the people it hires. “I thought [my dad] would get that care there,” she said. “He’s a vet. And he didn’t.”
Kathleen Noftle, the nurse accused of stealing morphine, previously worked at Tewksbury Hospital, according to the Department of Public Health. She resigned instead of facing disciplinary action after she was caught improperly disposing of narcotics 60 times. “The VA hired this lady,” Darton said. “Where was the background check on this lady?”