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Friday, July 03, 2009

5,700 may be at risk for hepatitis C in Colorado due to medical tech

A former technician may have exposed patients at Rose Medical Center and a Springs surgery facility.

By Joey Bunch
The Denver Post

Denver, CO--A Rose Medical Center operating room technician who was fired after failing a drug test for a powerful pain medication may have exposed thousands of patients to hepatitis C.

The technician, infected with hepatitis C, is charged with swapping her used dirty syringes, refilled with saline solution, for ones containing the painkiller fentanyl.

Hospital officials said they knew the technician had the virus when she was hired. She began work Oct. 21, 2008. She was fired April 13.

Rose is offering free testing to all people who had surgery in the main hospital or the Wolf Building between those dates. Letters will be sent to more than 4,700 former patients. Maternity and emergency room patients are not affected.

Rose officials said the state health department had found nine former Rose patients who tested positive for hepatitis C.

Hospital officials stressed at a Thursday night news conference that the employee is not confirmed to be the source of the infection and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is continuing its investigation.

Justice Department paperwork obtained by The Gazette newspaper in Colorado Springs identified the technician as Kristen Diane Parker, 26, of Colorado Springs. She is in federal custody.

Charges against Parker were filed by the U.S. attorney's office in Denver on Thursday. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office did not return telephone calls Thursday night.

In a videotaped interview Monday with police, according to the Gazette, Parker told a detective she used heroin from July to September last year. She allegedly told the investigator she thought she caught the virus from injecting herself with dirty needles. So she knew full well that by leaving her dirty syringes, she would infect others.

Parker also might have exposed 1,000 patients at Audubon Ambulatory Surgery Center in Colorado Springs, where she worked after being fired from Rose, according to the charges against her. Hospital officials say she worked there from May 4 until Monday.

Jeff Dorsey, the president and chief executive of Health One, which operates Rose and other hospitals, said he was angered by the surgery technician's breach of trust. "Someone in this particular case violated the trust everyone has, and that we value," he said Thursday night.

Thousands of deaths

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates more than 8,000 people a year die from hepatitis C-related liver disease. Hepatitis C can be treated and cured. Most people have no symptoms.

Dorsey said the technician's behavior led to the drug test, which she failed. She was fired immediately. The firing took place before the state health department contacted the hospital about the infections.

Former patients should receive the letter Tuesday or Wednesday at the latest, Dorsey said.
According to The Gazette, Parker told a Denver police investigator in the videotaped interview, "I know I (expletive) up. I can't take back what I did, but I will have to live with it for the rest of my life, and so does everybody else."

She told the investigator she expected to spend the rest of her life in prison.

On her MySpace page, Parker said she is the mother of a young son. She states that she has "a crazy fascination with needles." Among the artwork on the page is the figure of a man driven full of nails beneath the definition: "Guilt . . . the fact of having done a wrong, especially an act punishable by law."

To read additional facts on Hep-C click here


Anonymous said...

This monster,Kristin Parker, does not deserve a court hearing, she does not deserve to live her life out in prison. She is worse than a rabid dog and deserves no less than the euthanasia a rabid dog would get.

I am one of her victims.

Janet said...

I am so sorry. You are right about her.

"I know I (expletive) up. I can't take back what I did, but I will have to live with it for the rest of my life, and so does everybody else."

I am sickened by her callousness about it.

Has Rose Medical offered free medical care or any compensation?

And what is scary is, we don't know! We just trust that hospital people are caring and decent.