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AG: Long Island nurse gave patient morphine instead of muscle relaxant

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A licensed practical nurse from Freeport was criminally charged Wednesday for allegedly giving a patient at an Island Park nursing facility morphine instead of a prescribed muscle relaxant and is also accused of falsifying paperwork about the incident, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said.

Vicki Price, 46, was charged with endangering the welfare of a vulnerable person, endangering the welfare of a physically disable person, falsifying business records and willful violation of the public health law. She was released without bail after pleading not guilty during her arraignment at the Nassau County Court and is due back before a judge on Oct. 16. Her attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“New York’s health care professionals take an oath to care for their patients – and that care is their first duty,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “Our most vulnerable patients deserve our care, and my office will pursue justice when our basic tenets of care are not met. There is one set of rules for all caregivers, and those rules must be enforced.”

Prosecutors said Price was working as a licensed practical nurse at the Bayview Nursing and Rehabilitation Center on Long Beach Road in Island Park in February 2012, when she allegedly administered morphine to a patient instead of a prescribed muscle relaxant. The 46-year-old wheelchair-bound patient had suffered from spina bifida, a congenital disorder that sometimes causes paralysis. The unidentified patient lost consciousness, was hospitalized for five days and given medication to counter the effects of an opiate overdose, the attorney general’s office said.

Authorities allege that Price allegedly “attempted to cover up her mistake” by falsifying documents and not revealing the suspected slip-up. Patrick Formato, an attorney who represents the South Point Plaza Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, which was formerly the Bayview Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, said Price was fired after the incident. He said she had been hired through a staffing agency and had worked at the facility for about seven months.

Formato said the incident had been uncovered by other staff members at the nursing facility and was immediately reported to the state health department. He said they have been cooperating with the attorney general’s criminal investigation. “The facility takes these things very seriously,” he said, noting it "does not condone this behavior.”