ENGLEWOOD - The now-former surgical technician who may be responsible for roughly 2,900 people needing to be tested for HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C has been identified.
Rocky Allen, 28, was registered to practice as a surgical technologist in Colorado since July 2015.
According to state records, on Jan. 22, 2016, Allen allegedly removed a syringe from the top of a work space and replaced the syringe with another syringe. The syringe was on a container of Fentanyl. Fentanyl is used as part of anesthesia to help prevent pain after surgery or other medical procedure and is extremely addictive.
Swedish could not confirm the contents of the replacement syringe, citing the ongoing criminal investigation into the matter.
After this switch was discovered, authorities tested Allen and found he tested positive for Fentanyl and marijuana.
Swedish is contacting patients that hospital officials believe could have been exposed to the diseases. All of those patients had surgery at the hospital between Aug. 17, 2015 and Jan. 22, 2016.
The hospital tried to make it clear that it is also a victim in this case.
"This incident is about the brazen theft of drugs," said Dr. Matthew Fleishman, speaking for Swedish Medical Center. "In the operating room, the suspect syringe was identified. It was confiscated. It was not used in the case and the patient was not exposed."
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Fleishman added that there is no evidence of any infection among patients at this time and could not share whether Allen's blood has been tested for the diseases, citing federal health privacy laws.
However, the positive test for Fentanyl reported by state officials is a red flag that this may have been going on for awhile before the Jan. 22 incident.
"That's the math," said attorney Hollynd Hoskins, who represented victims in a similar 2009 case at Rose Medical Center. "He tests positive for Fentanyl, he had to gain access to it and inject it some time previous to the time he got caught."
Swedish administrators notified the Colorado Department of Health and Environment of the situation on Jan. 23, spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Mark Salley said.
Patients will be asked to have their blood tested for all three of these possible infections, Salley said.
According to the World Health Organization, hepatitis B is a "potentially life-threatening liver infection" that puts people at high risk of dying from cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Hepatitis C is less likely to be life-threatening – somewhere between 15 and 45 percent of the people who contract it spontaneously clear the virus within six months of infection. However, patients can develop chronic disease, and if they do they are at risk for cirrhosis, according to the WHO.
HIV weakens a person's immune system and can lead to AIDS. While there is no known cure, the disease can be controlled with proper medical care, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In June, Patrick Evans had a stroke and became paralyzed. He was treated at Swedish Hospital.
"I mean it's difficult enough that I have a new life in a wheelchair and I have to learn how to live differently right now," he said. "Having this happen is pretty devastating."
In a statement issued by the hospital in response to questions from 9NEWS, Swedish officials said they had "no evidence of any patient exposure" but were "taking a position of extreme caution by offering free testing to all patients who had surgery at Swedish Medical Center in locations where this individual worked at any time during this individual's employment, including those days the employee was not on the schedule or in the facility."
"We deeply regret that one of our former employees may have put patients at risk, and are sorry for any uncertainty or anxiety this may cause," Richard A. Hammett, President and CEO of Swedish Medical Center, said in the statement. "Please know our first concern is the health, care, safety and privacy of our patients and we are working diligently to look after the wellbeing of the patients who may have been affected by the wrongful actions of this individual."
One former Swedish patient, who requested anonymity, said he received a phone call Wednesday informing him of the situation. He said he was frustrated because hospital officials would not tell him whether the surgical technician was infected with any of the diseases, saying that would violate his privacy rights.
That patient also said that he was told a criminal investigation is under way.
The new investigation brings to mind the case of Kristen Parker, a former surgical technician who infected numerous people with hepatitis C in 2008 and 2009.
Parker, who worked at Rose Medical Center in Denver and Audubon Ambulatory Surgical Center in Colorado Springs, infected at least 18 people with hepatitis C after stealing the powerful painkiller fentanyl and then refilling syringes with a saline solution.
Parker, who was infected with hepatitis C, used her dirty needles in the process.
After Parker's case, state law changed drastically. In 2010, lawmakers passed a bill requiring hospitals to report incidents of drug theft by employees within two weeks. And those reports would have to be public.
Another law created DORA's registry for surgical techs and assistants. The goal of that law, was to prevent techs accused of stealing drugs in other states from working in Colorado.
Scott Patzer was tested as a result of the Parker case, and will go through another round of testing after being treated at Swedish this summer.
"It was definitely a shocking thing to go through at the time, and now obviously to have it happen a second time is, you just kind of wonder, what am I doing wrong?" he said.
In another case, a former Boulder Community Hospital nurse, Ashton Daigle, was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in federal prison after he stole painkillers from surgical patients and sometimes gave them unsterilized tap water in their place.
Like Parker, he was stealing fentanyl. He had faced up to life in prison, but he cooperated in the investigation and he did not spread communicable diseases to any patient.
Chris Vanderveen, Kevin Vaughan and Whitney Wild contributed to this report.'
(© 2016 KUSA)