6000 Hospital Patients Exposed to Hepatitis

A former surgery technician heard a list of criminal charges she faces in a potentially massive <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/hepatitis">hepatitis contamination. The Denver Post said Kristen Diane Parker, 26, is accused of exposing thousands of patients to hepatitis C, “tampering with a consumer product, counterfeiting a controlled substance, and containing a controlled substance by deceit or subterfuge.”

CNN reported that Parker remains in federal custody facing three drug-related charges and could face up to 20 years in prison if she is found to have seriously harmed a patient. Parker could face life in prison if a patient dies as a result of her actions, said CNN. The first count, said the AP, carries a maximum prison term of 10 years, while the second and third could bring 20-year terms each.

Parker worked at the Rose Medical Center in Denver, Colorado until she was fired when she tested positive for the powerful painkiller Fentanyl, said the Denver Post, and is also accused of injecting herself with painkillers designated for patients. Parker would inject herself with Fentanyl, and then refill the tainted syringes with saline, the Denver Post added.

After being fired from Rose Medical Center, Parker worked at the Audubon Ambulatory Surgery Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, said the Denver Post.

Parker was allegedly found in an operating room where she was not permitted access, said CNN. She later tested positive for Fentanyl. According to the Associated Press (AP), Parker admitted to swapping syringes containing Fentanyl with saline.

CNN reported that Parker admitted to conducting the secret injections in a bathroom while working at Rose Medical Center. Parker, who is infected with hepatitis C, said she thinks she contracted the blood borne pathogen as a result of heroin use and sharing dirty needles in 2008, when she lived in New Jersey, said CNN.

The complaint was filed late last week in U.S. District Court in Denver, said the AP, which also reported that an affidavit by Mary F. LaFrance, an investigator for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stated that at least nine surgery patients at Rose Medical Center have tested positive for hepatitis C, which is incurable. Now, said the AP, 6,000 patients are being advised they may have been exposed to the dangerous, sometimes deadly disease, and must undergo testing.

The AP reported that, to date, nine Rose Medical Center patients have tested positive for hepatitis C, but it remains unknown if Parker is the source of the contamination. Hepatitis C is spread by contact with infected body fluids, especially blood, and is a liver disease that can lead to cirrhosis or cancer of the liver. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C and the disease can be fatal. The AP pointed out that while incurable, hepatitis C is treatable; symptoms include “nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, pain, and jaundice.”

About 1,200 patients may have been infected between May 4, 2009, and July 1, 2009, when Parker worked at Audubon Ambulatory Surgical Center in Colorado Springs, said CNN, which added that Audubon is contacting its patients. The remainder of potentially contaminated patients are being advised by Rose Medical Center, where Parker worked from October 21, 2008 until April, said the AP. Parker was suspended on April 13 and was later fired, said the AP.

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