Shockingly, a second Denver-area hospital has revealed that surgical patients were possible exposed to hepatitis C as a result of the misconduct of a hospital employee.
Health authorities knew in April that a hospital surgical technician was fired under suspicion of stealing liquid painkillers. The same month, another division of the state health department linked two cases of hepatitis C to surgeries at that same hospital. It took two more months, though, for state investigators to piece together lab reports and surgery logs to definitively link surgical tech Kristen Diane Parker to a rash of hepatitis C cases in Colorado.
Officials at Rose Medical Center and the state health department said Monday that they followed protocol and notified patients within days of making the connection. Yet patients, dozens of whom got free hepatitis C tests at Rose over the weekend, were questioning why the hospital and state health department took so many weeks to find the link.
After a deeper review of Rose surgery logs, state investigators zeroed in on Parker, finding that she had been fired after a positive drug test and that she had hepatitis C. Parker admitted during interviews conducted June 22 through 25 that she had stolen syringes of Fentanyl from anesthesia carts at Rose and the Colorado Springs surgery center and replaced them with syringes of saline.
And 5,700 patients who might have been injected with saline solution in her used syringes instead of the powerful painkiller Fentanyl had no idea of the potential danger.
The Rose Medical Center nightmare is a repeat of that which came to light just about nine months ago at Boulder Community Hospital. Ashton Daigle, a surgical nurse at the Boulder hospital, pleaded guilty in June to charges he stole Fentanyl and replaced it with saline solution — or even tap water from a bathroom. He was caught after an anesthesiologist reported many of his patients were still in extreme pain after he thought they had received Fentanyl. Daigle faces a minimum of 54 months in prison when he is sentenced in October. Hospital officials and prosecutors have said more than 300 patients may have been affected by the thefts, which occurred Sept. 24 through Oct. 24.
As a result of the Daigle case, Boulder Community Hospital has become more aggressive at making sure drugs are closely monitored.