ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Swedish Medical Center is looking into a possible drug diversion or the stealing of narcotic pain medication intended for patients by a former employee, the hospital announced Wednesday afternoon.
The medical center would not confirm the identity of the employee but said the surgical technician was removed immediately after the alleged suspicious activity came to light.
The surgical technician’s actions might have put some surgery patients at risk for exposure to HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C viruses.
The medical center said there is no evidence of any patient exposure, but it will be taking a position of extreme caution by offering free and confidential testing to all patients who had surgery during the term of the former worker’s employment, including days the employee was not on the schedule or in the facility.
According to medical licensing records, the former employee is Rocky Elbert Allen. He was a surgical technician at Swedish Hospital until Jan. 22, when he allegedly switched out a surgical patient’s intravenous narcotic to inject himself, and then might have placed the needle back into circulation.
Police said Allen is still at large. FOX31 Denver’s Justin Joseph visited him at his house to talk to him about the allegations.
Allen: “I know it’s hitting the news tonight.”
Justin Joseph: “Did you put anyone at risk of HIV?”
Approximately 2,900 patients who had surgery at Swedish Medical Center between Aug. 17 and Jan. 22 are receiving calls and letters to notify them of the potential for exposure, and to request that they take a free, confidential blood test to screen for the viruses.
“We deeply regret that one of our former employees may have put patients at risk, and are sorry for any uncertainty or anxiety this may cause,” said Richard Hammett, president and CEO of Swedish Medical Center. “Please know our first concern is the health, care, safety and privacy of our patients and we are working diligently to look after the well-being of the patients who may have been affected by the wrongful actions of this individual.”
Swedish Medical Center said only patients who had surgery during the time frame of the surgical technician’s employment might be at risk. All other patients are not at risk and are asked not to call the patient care line.
Swedish Medical Center said it is working closely with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment as well as law enforcement and several regulatory agencies.
Police said they are still investigating to see if a crime was committed.