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Monday, March 30, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Medic switched drugs

A Spokane paramedic who had been stealing Fire Department drugs since at least December sometimes replaced them with saline solution and put the bottles back into service, court documents revealed Thursday.

Rebecca J. Singley, 32, told investigators that in addition to injecting herself with etomidate while on duty May 30, she stole and used morphine, Demerol and Ativan the week before, the documents state. She told police she refilled 10 Demerol bottles, two Ativan bottles and two morphine bottles with saline – a sterile solution of salt and water.

At the very least, Demerol and Ativan bottles containing only water were in service for a week, the documents state.

Some of the drugs were from a rarely-used medic car at Station 11, but some were from the main pump-and-ladder truck.

“We have no verification that anybody received or were impacted by that,” said Fire Chief Bobby Williams, who had not seen the court documents.

However, Singley’s reports have sparked the Fire Department to review all instances in the past year in which drugs were administered. Williams said he has no particular reason to suspect anybody was given water instead of drugs; the external review is “just in case.”

Paramedics administer drugs in about 200 of the department’s thousands of calls a year, he said.

Singley told police that to the best of her memory, the first time she stole drugs was Dec. 7, 2006, when she may have taken Ativan from Station 13. She told police she also stole and used Ativan while at work on Feb. 4.

She admitted to also taking expired Versed and expired Phenergan, which are sedatives, on several occasions. However, she insisted she never refilled bottles with water at Station 13, documents state.

In many, if not most, cases in which Singley reportedly stole drugs, she took them while doing inventory, the documents state. Those bottles would have been disposed of, rather than refilled, because they were past the expiration date.

There are five classifications of controlled substances, ranging from Schedule I – which are the most dangerous, with no legal medical applications – to Schedule V, which have a low potential for abuse.

Ativan, which is used to treat seizures and can have sedative effects, is a Schedule IV controlled narcotic. The same is true of Versed, which is often used before other medical procedures, according to Spokane County documents.

Morphine and Demerol are powerful painkillers and are both Schedule II controlled narcotics.

Etomidate – a short-lasting sedative administered before a person’s airway is cleared by a tube – and Phenergan are non-scheduled prescription drugs.

Singley, whom the documents say was found “temporarily incapacitated” at Station 11 on May 30 after reportedly injecting herself with etomidate, now could face at least one charge of possession of a controlled substance – a felony.

Detective Chet Gilmore wrote that there is physical evidence only for Singley’s unlawful possession of etomidate, Demerol, morphine and Ativan. The other drugs she said she took were only supported by the Fire Department’s inventory sheets, according to court documents.

He also wrote that he did not believe Singley was attempting suicide by injecting herself twice with etomidate. She reportedly told him she wanted to just “get away for a while,” documents state.

Singley did not return a request for comment after her mother was contacted late Thursday.

She is on paid administrative leave, and the Fire Department is not getting involved with the police investigation so it doesn’t appear as if it is interfering, Williams said.

The department will start its own internal investigation once the legal case is resolved, Williams said.

When she worked at Station 13, located at 1118 W. Wellesley Ave., Singley also took home two bottles of expired Phenergan, which reportedly keeps a person from vomiting, the documents state. She also told police she took home expired “Epi-pens” – which contain the steroid epinephrine – activated charcoal and syrup of ipecac.

According to Gilmore’s statement, she believed many Fire Department employees take home such non-narcotics when they expire.

“I would not expect that that would be a routine procedure,” Williams said. “And it would not be something that the department condones.”

Singley was transferred from Station 13 to Station 11 – at 3214 S. Perry St. – in early April so she could be retrained for emergency driving skills, Williams said. A supervisor at Station 13 had been concerned Singley was not attentive enough while driving.

Williams said the inattentiveness did not appear to be drug- or alcohol-related.

“At that point in time we were not aware of any drug issues,” Williams said.

Singley also told Gilmore that she had “downed” a box of chardonnay wine – equivalent to about three glasses – while driving into the fire station parking lot before starting her 24-hour shift at 8 a.m. May 30, the day she reportedly injected herself with etomidate.

According to court documents, Singley said she had an alcohol abuse problem that also contributed to marital problems. She and David Singley, a Spokane police sergeant, have three children and have filed for divorce, documents state.

She also told police that she had been in rehab for alcohol problems, and had not stolen drugs until afterward.

“The department is aware that she had been through treatment,” Williams said, but it did not get involved because Singley’s reported alcohol problems did not affect her work performance.

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