A NURSE has been suspended over allegations she stole prescription drugs from a private hospital.
Joanne Louise Rennebach can't work as a nurse for 18 months after an interim suspension was imposed by the Nursing and Midwifery Council last month.
She is alleged to have taken Zopiclone, a sleeping medication and is being investigating over the disappearance of other drugs.
The hearing was told drugs had gone missing from the Winfield Hospital in Longford between October 21 and 25 and November 2 and 5.
The next day after Zopiclone stock levels were checked at 2.30pm, they were checked again at 5pm and two were found to be missing.
All four staff members on duty were searched by police and after one tablet was found, allegedly in her bag, she was arrested on suspicion of stealing prescription medication.
A police search of her home found prescription only drugs Gabapentin (a relaxant used to treat epilepsy ), Tramadol (a painkiller), Zopiclone, and indigestion treatment Zoton.
Another drug to treat indigestion, Ranitidine, was found. It is available over the counter.
The hearing was told she initially admitted to police she stole the drugs from the hospital and had done so for six months.
She was given a police caution for theft by employee but is currently the subject of a criminal investigation for the supply of drugs.
In a written statement to the conduct and competence committee hearing in London, she said she admitted to police that she had taken medication from the hospital but denied she had done it over a six-month period.
In the statement she said she was "remorseful" and did not take controlled medication – she said she took prescription medication because she did not have time to collect her own.
Representing herself, she told the panel she felt stressed and painkillers and indigestion drugs found at her home were not taken from the hospital.
She also said she would not be likely to repeat her actions.
The panel ruled that she should be suspended for 18 months while the NMC conducts further investigations.
"The panel noted that this is not an isolated incident," it stated. "The allegations pertain to theft of prescription drugs which occurred over a period of time, the exact length of which is disputed.
"You have admitted self-medicating on these potent medications. The allegations are in effect, depriving patients of drugs which could ultimately have put those patients at a risk of harm."
Mrs Rennebach no longer works at the hospital, a Winfield spokesman confirmed.