Colorado Faulted for Hep C Notification in Surgical Tech Outbreak

In the days before the news broke about Kristen Diane Parker’s alleged swapping of sterile Fentanyl syringes with dirty—potentially hepatitis C-contaminated—saline-filled syringes, the Colorado state health department was apparently fully aware of Parker’s criminal activities at the Rose Medical Center. Four days before Parker, 26, was barred from working as a surgical tech at Audubon Surgery Center, said the Denver Post, officials knew that Parker was feeding her addiction and potentially endangering countless patients.

Parker, who faces federal criminal charges for her alleged conduct, worked at Rose from Oct. 21 to April 13 and at Colorado Springs’ Audubon Surgery Center from May 4 until June 29. Parker worked at Christus St. John Hospital outside Houston, Texas between May 2005 and Oct. 2006, the Associated Press (AP) previously reported and at Northern Westchester Hospital in New York’s Mount Kisco between Oct. 8, 2007, and Feb. 28, 2008.

According to the Denver Post, Parker admitting to her drug swapping activities on June 22 and health officials warned Parker to only handle nonsurgical assignments on June 23. Health officials did not advise her employer at the time, Audubon Surgery Center, said the Denver Post, and Parker was at work on June 23 in a “floating pool,” which placed her in proximity of surgical patients.

Parker was again interviewed after her shift on June 23, when the state discovered that Parker had surgical contact; the state advised her to report in sick on June 24-25 which, according to Ned Calonge, the state’s chief medical officer, she did, reported the Denver Post. According to Calonge, the state implemented an “unprecedented” public health order, which broke confidentiality, singled Parker out individually, and prevented her from further contact with patients and medications, said the Denver Post.

According to Audubon, it did not receive that order until June 26, which was the first time it received any news about issues with Parker, said the Denver Post. Parker was arrested June 30.

The Associated Press (AP) previously reported that Parker tested positive for hepatitis C before she began working at Rose, but that Parker never followed-up on the diagnosis. A federal magistrate has since ordered Parker jailed without bond, saying she switched the needles even though she knew she had hepatitis C, the AP said.

News broke late last week that Parker was fired from the New York location in 2008, said the Denver Post; the reason remains undisclosed. It is unknown if Parker was positive for hepatitis C when she worked in New York.

<"">Hepatitis C is spread by contact with infected body fluids, especially blood. The disease attacks the liver, and can lead to cirrhosis or cancer of the liver. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C and the disease can be fatal. The disease is incurable, but can be treated.

As we wrote previously, officials in Colorado are looking at a proposal to license and maintain oversight on surgical technicians. The proposal had been rejected but is receiving new light in the wake of the scandal that has expanded to two other states and has a victim toll that recently rose to 11, said the Denver Post.

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