Public Safety

Former Mercy nurse sentenced to 4 months for taking opioids from patients' IV lines and injecting herself

Judge split her time between prison and home confinement

The exterior of Mercy Medical Center and Hall-Perrine Cancer Center is seen in this photo taken in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on
The exterior of Mercy Medical Center and Hall-Perrine Cancer Center is seen in this photo taken in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Sunday, May 11, 2014. (The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — A Mercy Medical Center patient told a former nurse, during her sentencing Friday, that he didn’t think she had remorse for taking pain medication out of his intravenous line for her own use.

Marcus Matthews, a Mercy patient in 2018, in a victim impact statement, said he was conscious one time when former nurse, Kelly Postel, withdrew fentanyl from his line, and he asked her what she was doing. She told him she was doing what was needed.

Matthews asked the judge not to give her probation because it would be like a “slap to the face,” and not a deterrence.

Postel, 43, of Monticello, previously pleaded to one count of acquiring a controlled substance by misrepresentation, fraud, deception and subterfuge from Oct. 1 to Nov. 30, 2018, and one count of attempting to acquire and acquiring a controlled substance by misrepresentation, fraud, deception and subterfuge on Dec. 10, 2018.

During the plea hearing, Postel admitted she intentionally obtained fentanyl and morphine intended for patients.

Postel, a former registered nurse with Mercy, obtained an excess amount of fentanyl and morphine from the hospital pharmacy and administered patients’ prescribed amounts and then injected herself while at work with the leftover drugs in incidents from Oct. 1 to Nov. 30, 2018. She refilled the syringe with saline and pretended to discard the excess amount, according to the indictment.

On Dec. 10, 2018, Postel took 75 milliliters of fentanyl from an intensive care patient by using a syringe to withdraw it from an intravenous line and injected herself while still at work. That same day, Postel attempted to take more fentanyl from the patient’s IV, but the line she accessed contained a sedative, which she injected while on duty.

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Postel was an employee at Mercy from Jan. 12, 2016, until Dec. 20, 2018, when she was indicted on the charges, according to Iowa Board of Nursing disciplinary documents. Postel admitted to taking the drugs while at duty. She submitted to a “reasonable suspicion” drug screen by her employer on Dec. 10, 2018, and tested positive for fentanyl and other drugs.

The board, in a final order, indefinitely suspended her license in April of last year pending proof of completed treatment, including after care, and proof of sobriety for 12 months, the document shows.

As part of the plea agreement, Postel forfeited her nursing license.

Postel, during the hearing Friday, was crying as she apologized to Matthews and his family. She said she couldn’t explain what she had done.

She also acknowledged that she hurt her family and friends, and will spend every day of her life thinking about her actions. She is continuing to work on her “addiction,” she added.

U.S. District Judge C.J. Williams said Postel didn’t harm any patients but did “expose patients to danger.”

In Postel’s favor, she admitted her actions to authorities in August 2019, which the hospital didn’t fully know the extent of her activities, Williams noted.

She had an unfortunate childhood, which included physical and sexual abuse, but she overcame those and pursued a professional career of nursing. Her troubles didn’t begin until her opioid addiction took over after back surgery when she was 41.

She had been diagnosed with depression and anxiety in 2009 but didn’t have a substance abuse problem before the surgery.

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Postel also started treatment for her addiction, which not all defendants in this situation from the health care industry have done, and she gained employment not in her field and at a reduced salary, Williams pointed out.

Williams believed she was remorseful and decided to go below the 10 to 14 months advisory sentencing guideline. He sentenced her to four months on each count but ran them concurrently. He also split the sentence to have her serve 60 days in prison and two months on home confinement.

He explained that Postel may serve those 60 days in a county jail or a federal prison, which will be up to the Bureau of Prisons.

Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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