• Rochester, NH firefighter, ex-paramedic indicted for medicine theft


    ROCHESTER, N.H. (MyFoxBoston.com) -- A firefighter and former paramedic was indicted on felony charges alleging that he stole pain medication intended for patients at Frisbie Memorial Hospital in Rochester, New Hampshire.

    For more than a year, the indictment alleges that Donald Penney, 48, of Rochester, was taking Fentanyl and Hydromorphone when he was a paramedic for the hospital. He would withdraw medication from the ambulance, stating that he had administered the strong medication to patients, when instead kept it for himself, according to the indictment.

    In total, Penney has been indicted on 29 felony charges. Each charge is a special felony and, if convicted, each one carries a maximum sentence of 7½ to 15 years in prison and a $4,000 fine.

    "You're stealing from somebody else who needs that medication," Samantha Harrington said.

    It's an alleged crime that hits too close to home for Harrington. Her grandfather was a patient at Exeter Hospital in N.H., and was exposed to Hepatitis C after a sick hospital worker there injected patients with dirty syringes he'd used to get high. Now Harrington's grandfather is very sick.

    "He can barely walk up and down the stairs. He used to be a businessman, he used to travel the world and his life is ruined," she said.

    It's not believed that Penney injected patients with any needles he'd used on himself. Still, for Harrington, they are unjustifiable allegations.

    "It's a very similar factor where, it's like, if someone's going to be that selfish and use medical supplies for their own personal use and then endanger other people's lives, it's very sad and it's unfair and there's no reason for it. It's completely heinous. And I just think people like that shouldn't be able to be in these sort of positions," she said.

    Penney, who was fired from the hospital last August when officials discovered that drugs had been diverted, also worked as a lieutenant for the Rochester Fire Department for 18 years. He was placed on unpaid administrative leave from the department as of Tuesday. He had been on paid leave since August, according to Rochester Fire Assistant Chief Mark Dupuis.

    Frisbie released the following statement Wednesday:

    "Patient safety is a top priority of Frisbie Hospital and we have an outstanding safety record. FMH has several very detailed Controlled Substances Policies and procedures in place which dictate how controlled drugs are to be inventoried and administered. Technologies are also employed which allow us to monitor, track, and intervene when potential deviations from the established policies and procedures are discovered. In some cases drug testing is performed."

    Surprisingly a detective sergeant with the State Police Narcotics Unit reportedly said the hospital did everything right and has since further beefed up its narcotics procedures. Rochester's mayor, deputy mayor, city manager, and fire chief all refused to comment, citing personnel issues, but the fire chief did say Penney didn't handle any narcotics through his job with the department.

    Penney's case went directly to superior court for indictment, he has not been arrested in connection with the case, officials say. He will be arraigned on Jan. 30.

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