A Pennsylvania woman will be charged today with allegedly dealing heroin from her bed in the intensive care unit of a Pittsburgh area hospital, police said.
The 38-year-old woman, whose name is being withheld until she is officially charged, is suspected of selling $1,400 worth of heroin from her room in the Excela Westmoreland Hospital ICU.
“She will be charged with possession with intent to deliver, delivery of a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance and probably a paraphernalia charge as well,” Greensburg Police Chief Captain Chad Zucco told ABC News today.
Hospital staff became suspicious and alerted police after noticing the patient was receiving an unusually large number of visitors to her room in the ICU, and many of the visitors would stay mere minutes before leaving. Some of the people who came and visited her didn’t even know her last name, police said.
“The ICU is where our sickest of the sick patients are, so our staff are very attuned to what is happening in the patient’s rooms,” Excela health spokeswoman Robin Jennings told ABC News. “What they observed was an inordinate amount of foot traffic into a patient’s room."
Detectives set up surveillance on the room and eventually were able to get a confidential informant into the room to buy approximately 30 bags of heroin. A subsequent search of the patient and her room yielded 380 bags of heroin, syringes, and $1,400 in cash, Zucco said.
The drugs were kept in her purse and in hospital room drawers, police said. The woman apparently also had several cell phones in her room that would ring at odd hours, police said.
“I’ve not seen anything thing like this before, dealing heroin set up out of a hospital bed,” the chief said.
Zucco said it is unclear how the women was able to smuggle the heroin into the hospital. The patient checked into the hospital on April 14 for an undisclosed reason and the alleged drug dealing took place from April 14 to April 18, police said.
“It gives a person pause that people can be this bold if you will,” Jennings said. “At a time when they can be quite ill, they still either through addiction or whatever life circumstances, that they would continue to pursue [drug dealing] even at their most vulnerable.”
Jennings said the alleged ICU drug dealing is indicative of widespread drug abuse in the county.
“I think what our reaction is is one of sadness about the level of drug activity in Westmoreland County,” she said. “It is very dismaying to our caregivers that we have the level of drug overdoses in the county.”