Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Merrill Gardens Med Tech Cited For On-The-Job Intoxication

by Matt Rosenberg April 4th, 2011

SUMMARY: The state department of health released case information last week on Joseph B. Barsana, who worked as a registered nursing assistant/medication technician at a West Seattle assisted living facility, and has failed to contest a citation of unprofessional conduct after he was found passed out in a stairwell while on duty, with a half bottle of whiskey in his work station. A pill bottle with his name and a glass pipe were also found, both containing a substance police tests later revealed to be cocaine. Additionally, the narcotics cart was found unlocked with patient doses of oxycodone, hydrocodone and codeine missing. His registered nursing assistant license was expired at the time, but was not then required to have been renewed in order to work in an assisted living facility, according to state officials. The state will decide whether Barsana can become eligible to regain his credentials, and if so, under what conditions. Meanwhile, felony drug possession charges for cocaine are pending, and could be dismissed if Barsana successfully completes a court-supervised rehabilitation program in which he has enrolled.

BACKGROUND: A medication technician’s job in an assisted living facility typically includes storage and distribution of residents’ medicine, record keeping, patient observation and reporting, and fostering patient safety.

KEY LINKS:

Disciplinary Charges Against Joseph B. Barsana, State of Washington Department of Health. Announced March 29, 2011. (Click on “statement of charges”).

State of Washington v. Joseph B. Barsana, King County Superior Court, January 27, 2011 (including Seattle Police probable cause determination for narcotics charges).

KEY FINDINGS:

  • Last week the Washington State Department of Health reported that registered nursing assistant and medication technician Joseph B. Barsana had been charged with unprofessional conduct. The state administrative charge was made after he was found passed out in a stairwell by a co-worker, shortly after 6 a.m. He was on duty at the Merrill Gardens assisted living facility at 4611 35th Ave. SW in Seattle. A half-empty whiskey bottle was found in the med tech office. Also found on the premises were a pill bottle with his name and a glass narcotics pipe, both containing what appeared to be rock cocaine. Police testing of the substance found in both the pill bottle and pipe showed a positive result for cocaine.
  • Additionally, staff determined and police noted that the narcotics cart was found unlocked, and was missing three oxycodone, one hydrocodone, and one codeine pill, which had been affixed to cards for delivery to specific patients. Questioned by police who were called to the scene, Barsana said he remembered arriving at work at 10 p.m. the prior evening, and “the next thing he knew he was being awakened on the stairs.”
  • Barsana’s alleged actions violate the Washington state health care disciplinary law’s professional conduct provisions barring possession of controlled substances, and barring misuse of alcohol or controlled substances.
  • The incident occured on September 4, 2010. The state health department issuance of charges against Barsana was dated February 25, 2011. He declined to respond within 20 working days, forefeiting the right to contest the charge. The department announced the charge March 29, 2011 in a news release and will over the next several weeks or months determine what action to take. Possible outcomes range from dismissal to probation, or license suspension or revocation.
  • But for Barsana’s license to be suspended or revoked, or for probation to occur, his credential would have to be first reinstated. At the time of the alleged incident, Barsana’s state-issued registered nursing assistant license had been expired for almost two-and-a-half years. According to a department spokesperson, because Barsana was working in an assisted living facility, not a medical facility, an active credential wasn’t required. However, state law changed January 1, 2011 to require an active credential for such work at an assisted living facility, according to the department.
  • In a separate proceeding stemming from the same incident, Barsana was charged in King County Superior Court with a felony violation of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act for possession of cocaine. Barsana had no previous criminal history. The charges have been left pending and would be dropped if Barsana successfully completes a rehabilitation program he has entered, through King County Drug Diversion Court.

A call to Merrill Gardens West Seattle, seeking comment on the case, has not been returned.

UPDATE: Barsana’s license was suspended for at least two years by the department of health.

One Response to “Merrill Gardens Med Tech Cited For On-The-Job Intoxication”

  1. Kathryn says:

    With the level of polysubstance abuse listed in this article & the level of irresponsibility his being found passed out at work shows, this man needs his licenses to do any kind of healthcare work yanked for good. Even when he gets clean & sober, he needs to get retrained for a job in a totally different field–away from temptation.