Two hospitals in Washington state have urged 1500 patients to get tested for hepatitis and HIV after a former surgery technician stole and swapped a syringe in Colorado.
Rocky Allen has pleaded not guilty to the charges but prosecutors say that he has a history of moving from hospital to hospital and that he is lying about his past to steal drugs. The accused has already been fired from four medical centers in four different states according to court records.
In light of the incident, facilities in Arizona, California and Colorado have offered free testing to their patients as a precaution measure although there is a low risk of exposure to blood borne pathogens.
Northwest Hospital and Medical Center in Seattle and Lakewood Surgery Center have notified 1340 people who had surgery in 2012 to be tested because Allen worked there during that time. Lakewood has also alerted 135 patients.
“We characterize the risk to any patient as low, in part because we don’t have confirmed evidence of (a drug) diversion at Northwest Hospital,” said James Apa, a spokesman with Seattle-King County Public Health.
According to Allen’s attorney, the accused is a Navy veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. He had served as a medical worker in Afghanistan and turned toward drugs because of the horrors he witnessed there. However, the Navy facility in Washington where he worked has not notified any patients since Allen did not have access to any controlled substances and had also tested negative for blood borne pathogens during his employment.
Scripps Green Hospital in San Diego, California also terminated him because he tried to switch a syringe of fentanyl citrate with a syringe of saline. Similarly, he was fired from HonorHealth John C. Lincoln Hospital in Phoenix after being tested positive for fentanyl while working as a surgical attendant. Again, Swedish Medical Center in Denver fired him for taking a syringe filled with painkillers from an operating room.
Allen was arrested last month in Colorado and has been charged with tampering with a consumer product and obtaining a controlled substance by deceit. He is currently out on bail but has been ordered to stay at a halfway house and also to get drug treatment.