Thousands of patients who underwent surgery at Swedish Medical Center in Englewood, Colo., might be at risk of HIV and hepatitis B and C infections, the hospital has warned, after it caught a surgical tech diverting fentanyl from an OR.
On Jan. 22, 2016, Rocky Allen, 29, removed a fentanyl syringe from the top of an anesthesia workstation and replaced it with another labeled syringe, according to the state division of professions and occupations. A subsequent urine test revealed that Mr. Allen tested positive for fentanyl and marijuana. The state suspended his surgical technologist license when it learned of the incident on Jan. 29.
Swedish Medical says it is working closely with the state department of health to investigate the incident, which may have exposed nearly 3,000 patients to the infections. The hospital is calling and sending letters to the patients who underwent surgery at the facility beginning on Aug. 17, when Mr. Miller started working in the hospital's main and orthopedic ORs. At this point, there is no evidence of patient exposure. The hospital has fired Mr. Allen.
"We deeply regret that one of our former employees may have put patients at risk, and are sorry for any uncertainty or anxiety this may cause," says Richard Hammett, president and CEO of Swedish Medical Center. "Please know our first concern is the health, care, safety and privacy of our patients and we are working diligently to look after the wellbeing of the patients who may have been affected by the wrongful actions of this individual."
Swedish Medical notified police the day after the incident reportedly took place, says Sgt. Brian Cousineau, a spokesman for the Englewood Police Department. He says Mr. Allen has not been arrested, but remains under investigation.
Holly Falcon, CST, FAST, the vice president of the Association of Surgical Technologists, says her organization is working with sponsors on legislation that will increase the monitoring of surgical techs to ensure the health and safety of patients. She says, "The AST supports oversight of surgical technologists, and this incident further demonstrates this is not the time to decrease surgical technologist regulation.
Mr. Allen's alleged actions are reminiscent of similar drug diversions that occurred at nearby Rose Medical Center and Audubon Surgery Center in Denver. Over the course of several months in 2008 and 2009, surgical tech Kristen Parker replaced fentanyl syringes with saline-filled needles. Her thefts ended up infecting upwards of 25 patients with hepatitis C and ultimately landed her in jail, where she's currently serving a 30-year sentence.