As reported by the Denver Post, a surgical technician employed by the Swedish Medical Center in Englewood, Colorado was caught removing a labeled Fentanyl syringe from the anesthesia workspace during a surgical procedure and replacing it with another labeled syringe on January 22, 2016. (Fentanyl is a potent narcotic used by anesthesiologists.) The surgical tech submitted to urinalysis and tested positive for both Fentanyl and marijuana. As a result of this incident, the hospital asked nearly 3,000 surgical patients to get tested for HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.
The surgical tech was removed from the area, fired from his job, had his license suspended, and is now facing federal changes. However, that doesn’t help the surgical patients who may have been exposed to hepatitis and HIV.
The time period during which this tech assisted in surgeries and had the opportunity to switch out syringes was August 17, 2015 to January 22, 2016. Only surgical patients during that time period are being asked to be tested. According to a CBS Denver article, tests are coming back positive for patients who had surgery at Swedish Medical Center while the tech facing federal charges was assisting in the operating rooms.
Could Swedish Medical Center Have Prevented Patient Exposure to HIV and Hepatitis?
The surgical tech who was fired for switching out syringes to steal drugs had been previously fired from other hospitals for the same reason. Fox31 reports that he had been fired from four different hospitals for drug use and illegally obtaining Fentanyl from the workplace before Swedish Medical Center hired him.
A background check performed by Swedish Medical Center should have revealed this tech’s history of drug use, drug theft in the workplace, and subsequent terminations from employment. The tech failed to report the terminations when he registered as a surgical tech in Colorado, and failed to mention his previous employment on his resume.
Furthermore, the CBS Denver article raises questions about why the surgical tech has access to the drugs in the first place. According to the article, federal and state regulations require that medications be kept under lock and key until they are used for patients.
Class Action Lawsuit against Swedish Medical Center
Fox31 reports that 3 former surgical patients of Swedish Medical Center filed a class action lawsuit against the hospital because of the drug contamination which placed them at risk of contracting hepatitis B, hepatitis C, or HIV. The surgical tech who was caught stealing drugs has a blood borne pathogen disease.
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