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Bizarre Complaint From Nuns’ Infirmary

SACRAMENTO (CN) - A manager claims the Sisters of Mercy fired her for reporting well-founded suspicions that a nun took morphine and euthanized patients while working as an unlicensed nurse at a convent infirmary.

Jeanne Reaume says she worked for 15 years for the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Midwest Community, in Auburn, Calif. The facility cares for sick or injured members of the Sisters of Mercy.

In her complaint in Placer County Court, Reaume claims that Sister Elaine Stahl first stole morphine in 2005, while visiting the infirmary with a group of nuns comforting the sick.

In "a bizarre incident," during a visit to a sick nun's room, Stahl "burst from the room and forcibly accessed the infirmary's medicine locker over protests of Sally Begley," according to the complaint.

"Sr. Elaine took morphine from the locker. Sr. Elaine took the morphine into the sister's room and locked herself in the room along with the sick Sister and other visiting nuns. SOM staff pounded the door and attempted to gain access but were denied. Singing could be heard from the nuns in the room. When the door was opened, the sick nun was dead," according to the complaint. "Ms. Begley was upset and told SOM's leadership that she feared she would lose her license over the incident."

Reaume says she was told that "Ms. Begley informed the treating physician of the incident. Thereafter, Ms. Begley quit working for SOM in protest over the incident."

In 2008, Reaume says, she found herself supervising Stahl, whom the Sisters of Mercy had hired as "nurse manager" in the infirmary, "in which position she regularly practiced as a registered nurse."

Reaume says she received numerous complaints about Stahl from other nurses, who claimed Stahl was abusing them, and had forced a 76 year-old infirmary employee to work 12 days straight, "and that it was making her sick."

When another employee told Reaume that Stahl was "writing doctors' orders and prescriptions," Reaume says she discovered that Stahl "did not have an employment file and there was no documentation that she was licensed as an RN."

Reaume says Stahl "refused to produce" her credentials.

Reaume claims that infirmary nurses told her that Stahl "often looked dazed and acted bizarrely during work hours" and "that Sr. Elaine's on-site private bedroom 'looked like a pharmacy.'"

Reaume adds that "another SOM employee informed plaintiff that despite the infirmary's increase in use of morphine since Sr. Elaine started working, SOM did not have a protocol for disposal of the drug and that SOM's nurses were concerned that excess morphine was not accounted for."

Reaume says she overheard Stahl on the telephone with a Sacramento pharmacy, ordering a drug that "was likely to be morphine." She says she heard Stahl tell the pharmacist, "'I know it's overkill, but I'm a hospice nurse.'"

Reaume adds that from "January 2009 through August 2009, six of SOM's infirmary patients died ... some of whom were not previously believed to have been terminal."

Reaume says her investigation of Stahl earned her nothing but harassment from her own supervisors in the Sisters of Mercy's human resources department, who demoted her and cut her hours.

A few months after Reaume reported her findings about Stahl to the police, she says, she was fired while on medical leave for stress.

Reaume demands damages for retaliation, wrongful firing and breach of contract. She is represented by Etan Rosen with Beyer, Pongratz and Rosen.

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