MINNEAPOLIS — A nursing home nurse routinely peeled powerful pain patches off the backs of mentally deficient residents, then affixed the patches to his tongue before sticking them back on the clients, according to a state investigation.

Health Department investigators, in a report released this week, said the licensed practical nurse at Villa St. Vincent in Crookston stole painkillers from 10 residents until being caught this past spring, leading to police involvement and the employee’s immediate firing.

The nurse “removed … fentanyl patches from (three) residents’ back, placed the patches on (his) tongue for approximately one hour and replaced the patches on the residents,” investigators said in the report.

The nurse admitted to carrying out this routine three to four times a week “every week for at least a year,” the report continued.

The three patients on fentanyl were described in the report as having “severe cognitive defects and an inability to communicate their needs.” The report added that the health effects of having the patches temporarily removed from the three residents “could not be determined.”

The roster of drugs the nurse stole, investigators continued, included tramadol, Tylenol No. 3 and Percocet.