More than 1,300 patients who had surgery at a Seattle-area hospital a couple of years ago may have been exposed to Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and HIV by a former employee who is also an alleged drug addict.
The former employee is named Rocky Allen, 28, and he was recently arrested in Denver, Colorado. The Denver Post gives a detailed account of his alleged activities in various hospitals, where he allegedly tampered with syringes in search of Fentanyl, a narcotic painkiller, KIRO 7 reported.
A federal case against Allen is pending after he was arrested last month. He is accused of switching needles containing the painkiller for other substances. An attorney in Denver said two former patients in the city were exposed and tested positive for bloodborne pathogens; other positive tests have been reported.
So far, there is no proof that Allen exposed patients to the viruses at Seattle’s Northwest Hospital and Medical Center, but the Washington Department of Health is concerned about exposure because the former employee is a drug addict and infected with bloodborne pathogens himself.
The hospital fears that Allen, who worked there briefly as a surgical technologist, exposed patients while diverting and tampering with medications. The exposure period is from December 30, 2011, to March 9, 2012, and the hospital believes the chance of being exposed is low; patients who had surgery during that period are being encouraged to get tested.
After he was fired, he worked elsewhere in the Seattle area, and two more hospitals will be announcing similar concerns later in the week. KING5 reported that the hospitals are in the Puget Sound region and could add 700 more patients into the number.
After his time in Washington, the man moved on to facilities in Denver, California, and Arizona, where similar allegations have been lodged. According to United Press International, Allen is being investigated for “diverting and tampering with patient medications in such a way that it may have exposed patients to hepatitis B, hepatitis C and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).”
If he’s convicted, he could face 14 years in prison.
Allen worked at the U.S. Navy Hospital in Washington from 2007 to 2011. He applied to Swedish Medical Center in Denver after being fired in Seattle, Arizona, and California, and allegedly lied on his application to Swedish Hospital by claiming employment with a medical defense contractor.
“I have been a surgical technologist for 7 years and I have a very wide range of clinical experience which I have gained working in various surgical setting including a total of 3 years spent in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and Kuwait,” he wrote in an application, describing himself as a “great critical thinker with years of training and skills working under stress and reacting quickly to emergency patient care situations.”
He said he served in Afghanistan for two years.
A former boyfriend, Anthony Incardona, said Rocky was in U.S. during the years he claimed to be overseas.
At Swedish Hospital, he allegedly exposed 2,900 patients to HIV, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C. Similar stories have come out of his employment at other hospitals.
He was court-martialed from the Navy for stealing fentanyl. Scripps Green hospital in La Jolla, California, caught him replacing a doctor’s fentanyl syringe with saline, and Banner Thunderbird hospital in Arizona fired Rocky after finding him rifling through a container that held used needles and syringes. HonorHealth John C. Lincoln hospital, also in Arizona, fired him after he was found passed out and tested positive for his drug of choice.
Incardona, Rocky’s former boyfriend, said he hid his addiction and gave numerous reasons to explain his frequent firings: he’d offended someone, or was still on probation.
“We were always trying to start fresh. I got different stories all the time. I was extremely shocked to learn he was using drugs.”
Incardona may also have been exposed to the same viruses as the patients in the hospitals his ex worked; he’s awaiting results.
[Image via funnyangel/Shutterstock]