DENVER (CBS4) – A former surgical technician suspected of stealing pain medication at a hospital in Englewood has been indicted by a federal grand jury.
Nearly 3,000 people were told they need to be tested for the HIV virus and hepatitis B and C after needles may have been switched at Swedish Medical Center by Rocky Allen.
On Jan. 22 Allen allegedly removed a syringe containing Fentanyl Citrate from a workspace and replaced it with a similar syringe at the beginning of a surgery. Allen, 28, was given a uranalysis and tested positive for fentanyl.
The hospital fired Allen and patients who had surgery done at Swedish were notified they should be tested to see if they had been affected by contaminated needles. So far there is no word that anyone had.
Robert Jacobs’ 13-year-old daughter was among the patients who were urged to have the blood work done.
“Every day she would come in and ask me if the results were in,” Jacobs said “You’re worried all the time and when they finally came back yesterday I was ecstatic.”
Denver attorney Jim Avery represents more than a dozen Swedish patients who are in the testing group as of Tuesday evening he says two of his clients had tested positive for Hepatitis B.
“They are extremely distraught,” Avery said.
The charges against Allen were announced Tuesday morning following an indictment by a federal grand jury. He faces charges of tampering with a consumer product and obtaining a controlled substance by deceit and subterfuge.
Allen surrendered to U.S. Marshals downtown Denver Tuesday morning and he is scheduled to appear in federal court on Tuesday afternoon. He was advised of his rights in federal court Tuesday afternoon.
If convicted, Allen faces a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison and a possible fine of $500,000.
“We are extremely pleased to see an arrest has been made and that this individual is being pursued aggressively by the authorities. We continue to collaborate with all investigatory and law enforcement agencies in hopes of prosecution for these criminal actions,” officials at Swedish Medical Center said in a statement.
Allen worked at Swedish Medical Center between Aug. 17, 2015, and Jan. 22. Only patients who had surgery at a Swedish Medical Center operating room during that time have been asked to be tested. Those who had surgery between those dates and want to confirm whether they are included in the testing group can call (303) 728-7140.
Allen previously worked at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center in Glendale, Arizona, and John C. Lincoln Medical Center (formerly known as North Mountain Hospital) in Phoenix. Both of those centers have issued health alerts to patients that they are offering testing for HIV and hepatitis B and C in light of the case at Swedish.
Jacobs says the fact that Allen was ever hired at Swedish Medical Center raises new concerns for his family.
“How could these people not know that he was a problem,” he said.
– Banner Thunderbird Medical Center voluntary testing information: bannerhealth.com/…/Alert+for+Patients+at+Banner+Thunderbird+Medical+Center.htm
– John C. Lincoln Medical Center voluntary testing: honorhealth.com/…/jcl-scrub-tech-media-statement.pdf
– The following is a statement from Swedish Medical Center issued on Feb. 16.
Connecting personally with each patient impacted by this investigation is our top priority. We have reached more than three quarters of our patients personally, and a majority of them have conducted blood tests. Additionally, some patients, although we have reached them, have decided not to test or to test independently. Our collaboration with the State Health Department and tireless efforts to contact and encourage testing for these patients is ongoing.
– The following is a statement from Swedish Medical Center issued on Feb. 2.
Swedish Medical Center recently identified a potential drug diversion (the stealing of narcotic pain medication intended for patients) by a former employee, which prompted an immediate and thorough investigation involving several regulatory agencies. We also notified law enforcement.
We are working closely with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on an investigation of the actions of that former employee who may have put some of our surgery patients at risk for exposure to HIV, hepatitis B, or hepatitis C, viruses that can potentially cause long-term health concerns. At this point we have no evidence of any patient exposure; however, we are taking a position of extreme caution by offering free testing to all patients who had surgery at Swedish Medical Center in locations where this individual worked at any time during this individual’s employment, including those days the employee was not on the schedule or in the facility.
Approximately 2,900 patients who had surgery at Swedish Medical Center between August 17, 2015 and January 22, 2016 are receiving calls and letters to notify them of the potential for exposure and to request that they take a free, confidential blood test to screen for these viruses. We are taking these extensive measures to ensure the safety of our patients, our staff, and our community.
“We appreciate the cooperation we have received as we work through our investigative process,” said Dr. Larry Wolk, Executive Director and Chief Medical Officer at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “We join Swedish Medical Center in prioritizing patient safety as we work collaboratively through this situation.”
“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,” said Richard A. Hammett, President and CEO, 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.”