Katie Lee Howman
Katie Lee Howman

Drug addict Toowoomba nurse did not die in vain

A CORONER says doctors should be able to find out straight away about a patient's prescription history and drug dependence, following the tragic death of a Toowoomba drug-addicted nurse.

Katie Lee Howman, 30, was found dead in her ensuite bathroom four days before Christmas in 2013 after overdosing on a morphine-like painkiller drug Fentanyl.

It was revealed at the inquest that she was drug addict.

In her findings handed down on Monday, Coroner Christine Clements said Ms Howman went "doctor shopping" and visited 30 different doctors in the Toowoomba area between 2010 and 2013.

Between October 2012 and November 2013 Ms Howman had been issued with 71 prescriptions with 1705 doses of oxycodone, a painkiller.


Ms Clements said only one out of 30 doctors felt it was necessary to check Ms Howman's prescription history.

"That doctor commenced trying to wean Katie from the drug, but the record shows her patient continued to visit other doctors to source oxycodone," Ms Clements said.

She said doctors were able to find out about a patient's prescription history but they had to ask for it.

But Ms Clements suggested this information be available in "real time".

"These matters should be urgently investigated and considered by government," she said.


Ms Clements also said the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) did not detect Ms Howman had a drug dependency problem, even though she was under its supervision and had to be drug tested.

She was under the watch of AHPRA after she was found unconscious in the toilet at her workplace, Toowoomba Base Hospital, in 2010. She had injected herself with the same drug that killed her three years later.

Ms Clements said it was "somewhat surprising" that AHPRA did not screen the nurse for broader opiate drugs.

"(Ms Howman) was never prescribed Fentanyl, but she worked in a critical care ward where there was opportunity, despite safeguards, that she might access opioids," she said.

Ms Clements said the inquest was assured that AHPRA would now routinely order these broad screenings.

Ms Clements also recommended that colleagues of a staff member being supervised under AHPRA would be notified about restrictions placed on their workmate.


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