Earlier this week, Gov. Bill Ritter signed into law two measures in response to recent cases of Colorado hospital employees abusing drugs. The laws require employers to report health care workers under suspicion to the state Department of Health within two weeks and to make information about a case available to the public, including future employers.

Earlier this year, a Rose surgical technician admitted stealing fentanyl, a painkiller used during surgery, from surgical trays and refilling the syringes with saline water – thus exposing about 6,000 patients to the hepatitis C with which she is infected. Kristen Parker was sentenced in February to 30 years in prison after being convicted of stealing the painkillers.
Parker was fired from Rose Medical Center in Denver and reported to state authorities. But Parker went on to work at Audubon Surgery Center in Colorado Springs. Prior to working in Colorado, Parker worked in Mount Kisco, N.Y., and in Houston, where, she admits, to having also stolen medication. To read more about the Rose exposure, see Hep C Toll Up to 23 Patients.
Last year, a former surgery nurse who worked at Boulder Community Hospital admitted using needles, intended for patients, to steal pain medication. That nurse, Ashton Daigle, was sentenced to four and a half years in federal prison.
It is expected that the increased reporting could help stop drug-addicted medical workers from moving around to continue a drug habit without detection.
The other law sets up a statewide registry of surgical technologists and surgical assistants. Employers will have to verify those workers are in good standing before allowing them to work in Colorado.
Colorado now becomes the seventh state to regulate surgery techs. The others are Indiana, Illinois, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington. The Association of Surgical Technologists supported Colorado’s new laws. The group said that surgical techs and assistants were the only unlicensed members of a surgical team.

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