Former patient says he contracted hepatitis C from Swedish Medical Center

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DENVER -- A former patient at Swedish Medical Center is the first to publicly blame the hospital for his diagnosis of hepatitis C.

Scott Patzer’s accusation follows the guilty plea of Rocky Allen, a fired surgical technician who admitted in federal court on Tuesday to diverting the drug fentanyl for his own use.

As a result, Swedish asked nearly 3,000 patients, including Patzer, to get tested for possible exposure to HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

On Feb. 22, Patzer received a letter from Swedish Medical Center telling him he tested positive for hepatitis C but that “no follow-up needed.”

“You go to the hospital anticipating you;re going to get well and you come out worse off than when you went in,” said a frustrated Patzer, who insisted he had “no risk factors for hepatitis C, no history of it.”

Patzer is one of three former Swedish patients who have since tested positive for hepatitis C and have hired attorney Hollynd Hoskins to represent them.

“I don't think it's a coincidence and I think all the evidence points to the fact that Scott Patzer was infected with hepatitis C based on a patient-to-patient transmission as a result of Rocky Allen's conduct,” said Hoskins, who has yet to file any lawsuits but maintains it’s an option.

Allen has admitted he is HIV positive, but state health investigators say there is no evidence anyone, including Patzer, became infected because of Allen’s criminal conduct.

“Of available blood test results, CDPHE's investigation has produced no evidence of disease transmission, either from the surgical technician to a patient or from patient-to-patient," said Dr. Larry Wolk, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

A spokeswoman for Swedish Medical Center said Allen wasn’t on duty during any of Patzer’s four surgeries.

But Hoskins said that’s a misleading statement because she has reason to believe Allen was at work on two days when Patzer was undergoing procedures.

Hoskins said just because Allen might have punched out his timecard doesn’t mean he really left the hospital.  Hoskins believes that might have been the perfect time for Allen to try to steal drugs and contaminate a needle meant for a patient.

“I'm really surprised at the feds as well as the health department that they didn't do more of a thorough investigation to really determine what the consequences were of Rocky Allen's actions of diverting fentanyl in operating rooms for months at a time,” Hoskins said.

Paxter just completed his treatment for hepatitis C, which will hopefully cure his disease.

"I don't have any doubt in my mind that I contracted it at Swedish Hospital. Through my interview with CDPHE, I had no other risk factors, my doctors haven't identified any other risk factors,” Patzer said.

The Colorado Department of Health and Environment doesn’t know how Patzer or Hoskins’ two other clients became infected but said its investigation included DNA fingerprinting to ensure Patzer’s strain of hepatitis C didn’t match any other patients at Swedish.

But the health department admits it can’t rule out infection for others because of the nearly 3,000 patients Swedish tried to test. Almost 1,000 patients didn’t follow up.  Almost half, about 480 patients, never got tested for reasons unknown. The other half didn’t get follow-up testing that was recommended.

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