Surgical Tech Suspended As Patients Warned of Possible Infections
Northwest Hospital & Medical Center has contacted about 1,340 of its patients who had surgery from Dec. 30, 2011, to March 9, 2012, in an operating room where that individual, identified as Rocky Allen, worked.
Some 2,000 people in the Seattle area who have recently undergone surgery are being notified by health authorities that they should be tested for possible hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV infection, because a former surgical technician is being investigated in Colorado for diverting and tampering with patient medications. Northwest Hospital & Medical Center has contacted about 1,340 of its patients who had surgery at Northwest Hospital from Dec. 30, 2011, to March 9, 2012, in an operating room where that individual, identified as Rocky Allen, worked.
"At this time, we have no evidence of any patient exposure. Based on our preliminary investigation and after consultation with Public Health – Seattle & King County, Washington State Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we believe the risk to our patients is extremely low," Northwest said in its announcement of the alert to patients. It asked patients who had surgery during that period to call 206-368-1002 or 800-695-0654 to receive more information about how could obtain free testing.
"We are deeply saddened that the actions of a former employee may have placed our patients at risk and we understand the concern this notification may cause our patients and their loved ones. We are working closely with King County Public Health and the Washington State Department of Health to thoroughly investigate the matter and we are committed to doing all we can to support our patients and families throughout this process," it said.
The Washington Department of Health announced March 16 that state health officials had immediately suspended Allen's credential on Feb. 29, 2016, "after learning his credential was suspended in the state of Colorado for allegations that he removed a syringe labeled fentanyl, replaced it with another syringe, and tested positive for fentanyl and marijuana." The agency explained that Allen recently applied for reactivation, and that it suspended his Washington license in order to prevent him from renewing his license in Washington until the legal action is complete. Allen has 20 days to request a hearing to contest the suspension of his Washington license.
WDOH's investigation found that Allen worked at three medical facilities in Washington state: Kitsap County, Naval Hospital Bremerton; King County, Northwest Hospital; and Pierce County, Lakewood Surgery Center. "The investigation is still open but at this time we are not aware of any other health care facilities where Allen worked in Washington," according to its release, which said those three facilities "performed an internal investigation and consulted with local and state public health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to assess potential risk to patient safety. Though there was no evidence of any patient exposure, and the risk is thought to be very low, both Northwest Hospital and Lakewood Surgery Center have notified patients who had surgery during Allen's employment and recommended that they be tested for bloodborne pathogens."
Seattle Times staff reporter JoNel Aleccia reported March 16 that at least 2,000 people who had surgery at two hospitals are being warned of possible infection. Aleccia's report said Allen, 28, was charged with stealing a syringe of the painkiller fentanyl and replacing it with another substance. "His action put nearly 3,000 patients at Swedish Medical Center in Englewood, Colo., at potential risk from needle swapping and raised concerns about his actions at previous jobs," Aleccia reported.