Englewood, CO– Almost 3,000 patients of Swedish Medical Center will be tested for HIV and hepatitis after a possible contamination between Aug. 17 and Jan. 22.
The hospital announced Wednesday that surgical technician Robert Allen had been suspended on suspicion of drug diversion.
Sources said Allen allegedly used needles to inject himself with stolen narcotics, then reused the needles on patients. Some patients also said they were told by Swedish Medical Center that staff found a needle infected with HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C in an operating room.
“The surgery was one of the goals of the last year of my life because I was in so much pain. Great, get the surgery done, now I can move forward. Now, what’s going to happen now?” patient Scott Rogalski said.
Rogalski had back surgery at Swedish Medical Center in September. The hospital called him around 11:30 a.m. Wednesday to explain that he is one of the approximately 2,900 patients who could have been exposed to the potentially deadly viruses.
“It’s scary just not knowing. Was this person there when I was there?” Rogalski said.
This does not affect every person who had surgery at Swedish Medical Center. Patients who had surgery in the facilities where Allen worked will get a free blood screening to test for the viruses.
So far, the hospital said it does not believe any of the patients have been infected. But patients like Rogalski and others are nervous.
“I had a breakdown. I mean, that’s a lot to deal with when you’re paralyzed and you just had a stroke. And then to hear that too,” patient Patrick Evans said.
Evans is angry at Swedish for not being more specific about what happened and about who could really be at risk.
“They wouldn’t tell me hardly anything. I’ve got questions I want answered. I want details and they’re not giving them to me,” Evans said.
The hospital has not said for sure where exactly the HIV and hepatitis came from. It will be at least a week before some patients can be screened for the viruses. In the meantime, all they can do is wait.
“Until I get tested, I don’t know what the future is going to be like,” Evans said.
Swedish Medical Center is contacting all of the affected patients by phone or mail. If you had surgery there between Aug. 17 and Jan. 22, you can call the patient care line. The phone number will be provided in the correspondence from the hospital.
All other patients are not at risk and are asked not to call to avoid tying up the phone lines.