KUSA - The National Association of Surgical Technologists is calling for more regulation for their profession.
The vice president of the voluntary organization said the case of the former Swedish Medical Center employee who potentially exposed thousands of patients to blood-borne illnesses, is the most recent example of why stricter rules are needed.
The national group is based in Littleton and has 38,000 members.
"We're in the operating room and we're the face behind the mask," said Holly Falcon, vice president of the Association of Surgical Technologists.
Falcon said she was upset to hear Rocky Allen, a fellow tech, was charged with stealing drugs and allegedly putting 2,900 Swedish patients at risk for hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV.
"It just goes against everything that we stand for. It just goes against everything that we're taught as a surgical technologist to keep the patient first," she said.
Federal prosecutors said Allen has a "blood borne pathogen" and used his position at hospitals in four states to get his hands on the pain killer fentanyl.
Falcon said there are few rules for surgical techs which is how Allen was able to cross state lines for new operating room positions despite getting fired at previous hospitals.
"If Rocky Allen would have been a nurse or he would have been a physician’s assistant, he would have lost his license and therefore would not be allowed to work anywhere in the United States again. However because we don't have that accountability in place for surgical technologists, these things can happen and surgical technologists can still work in the operating room," she said.
There is a Colorado law that will sunset this summer that mandates surgical techs to register with the state. Unless it's continued, there will be no required professional registration.
The association is fighting to keep the registration and increase rules such as mandatory certification.
"We have big responsibilities in the operating room and to know that it's not mandated that we have a particular level of education or certification required to work is kind of scary," said Falcon.
House Bill 16-1160 is currently in the House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee.