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Bill Aimed At Addicted Health Care Workers

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Former hospital scrub technician Kristen Parker was sentenced to 30 years in prison. She pleaded guilty to stealing drugs, injecting herself and then using the dirty needles on patients. Parker infected bout 35 people with Hepatitis C. (credit: CBS)

Former hospital scrub technician Kristen Parker was sentenced to 30 years in prison. She pleaded guilty to stealing drugs, injecting herself and then using the dirty needles on patients. Parker infected bout 35 people with Hepatitis C. (credit: CBS)

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DENVER (CBS4) – A proposed bill would open up some of health care workers’ employment records with the goal of protecting patients from drug-addicted workers.

Right now employers can’t disclose the reason for firing a health care worker, which means they could get a new job and feed their addiction somewhere else, possibly putting patients at risk.

The bill is aimed at health care workers like Kristen Parker, a former scrub tech at Rose Medical Center who stole syringes of fentanyl, injected herself and replaced them with saline. In the process, she infected three dozen patients with hepatitis C, including Lauren Lollini.

“It’s not a matter of will this happen again but when will it happen again,” Lollini said.

Lollini says there is nothing to stop drug-addicted health care workers from hopping from job to job.

Parker was fired from hospitals in New York and Texas for behavior consistent with drug addiction before she was hired at Rose. When she was let go from Rose for failing a drug test she landed a job at Audubon Surgical Center in Colorado Springs.

“I was shocked that someone in this day in age could do this because I thought that we had programs in the hospitals, that there was some safety net there of some kind,” said Rep. Jeanne Labuda,D-Denver.

 

Labuda has introduced a bill that would create that safety net. It would allow a hospital or nursing home, for example, to disclose if an employee has a drug problem or violent tendencies when they apply for another job.

“Right now all the hospital people can say is the employee was here this long and this was the title of the job,” Labuda said.

The bill comes too little too late for Lollini, but she says it’s a big step toward preventing what happened in the case of Parker from happening again.

“The more proactive steps we can put into place upon hiring and being more preventative is definitely what we need to be doing,” Lollini said.

The Colorado Hospital Association is backing the bill that would apply to all health care workers — everyone from doctors and nurses to pharmacists and chiropractors. And if they switch professions, the information could be disclosed to any employer regardless of whether it’s a health care job.

The legislation already has bipartisan support.

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