Syringe-Stealing Hospital Tech Is HIV-Positive

     DENVER (CN) – The surgical technician accused of stealing syringes for liquid painkillers from hospitals in Colorado and Arizona is HIV-positive, federal officials said Wednesday, warning patients to consider getting tested for the virus.
     The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Denver announced Allen’s HIV status Wednesday — apparently without Allen’s consent, according to Denver news outlets.
     Rocky Allen, a Navy veteran, is accused of replacing syringes with saline solution to support his drug habit during his five-month employment at Swedish Medical Center in Englewood, Colo. He worked there from Aug. 17, 2015 until Jan. 22, when he was accused of stealing a syringe of fentanyl and fired. At least two people are believed to have contracted hepatitis B after having surgery at Swedish Medical Center while Allen worked there.
     A federal grand jury on Feb. 16 charged Allen with tampering with a consumer product and obtaining a controlled substance by deceit. Allen has pleaded not guilty. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 14 years in prison.
     In March, a federal class action in Denver claimed Allen could have exposed 3,000 patients to HIV or hepatitis. Named as defendants were the Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), and HealthONE LLC dba the Swedish Medical Center, one of several Denver-area hospitals run by HealthONE.
     In May, another class action, in Phoenix, claimed HonorHealth and HonorHealth John C. Lincoln Medical Center hired Allen despite his history of drug abuse. That lawsuit, in Maricopa County Court, said Allen was court-martialed by the Navy in 2011, “and pleaded guilty to making a false official statement, wrongfully possessing approximately 30 vials of fentanyl, wrongly possessing a syringe containing fentanyl, stealing fentanyl, and stealing a syringe containing fentanyl.”
     Lead plaintiff Amy Amari said the records of Allen’s court-martial were available, had the hospital asked for them.
     It has since been discovered that hospitals in Washington and California also had fired Allen for syringe-swapping.
     Allen has tested negative for hepatitis B and hepatitis C, but prosecutors say he may have reused some of the syringes he stole and filled with solution, and that his HIV infection might have been spread to surgical patients.
     In Colorado, a state survey found the Swedish Medical Center kept inaccurate drug records and there were gaps in its pharmacy audits, which might have helped Allen get away with it as long as he did.
     No patients have yet claimed to have contracted HIV from Allen’s conduct.
     Allen’s public defender, Timothy O’Hara, told Judge Kristen Mix at a Feb. 19 hearing that Allen was not necessarily reusing the syringes, and might have simply switched them. O’Hara said Allen’s drug use was a way to deal with PTSD from his service in Afghanistan.

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