Lawmakers: Let's toughen laws for surgical techs

Posted at 11:58 PM, Feb 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-26 12:41:19-05

Colorado lawmakers are looking to strengthen laws after a former Swedish Medical Center surgical technologist put thousands of patients at risk.

Rocky Allen, 28, is accused of swapping out a syringe of the powerful narcotic Fentanyl and replacing it with another syringe.

Swedish fired Allen in January and asked nearly three thousands patients who had surgery while he worked there to get tested for HIV and hepatitis.

Allen's days in the operating room may be over, but with a long history of drug abuse at three other hospitals, two in Arizona and one in California, questions are now swirling about why he was ever able to find work in Colorado.

"It is a wake-up call," said Rep. Joann Ginal, D-Fort Collins.

Current laws in Colorado require surgical techs and surgical assistants to register with the state and self-report bad behavior.

In Allen's case, Denver7 found Allen lied about previous employers and drug abuse problems on his state registration.

"You can't fix it so it'll be full proof, but we've got to make this a stronger bill so that people like Rocky Allen cannot get through the system as easily as he did," said Rep. Ginal.

Ginal is sponsoring a bill that will keep Colorado's current regulations in place. She is also considering amendments that would strengthen the bill.

The law originally passed in 2010 after a surgical tech swapped out a Fentanyl syringe at Rose Medical Center and infected numerous patients with hepatitis C.

The bill is up for a sunset review at the Capitol and could go off the books if it's not renewed. 

"The original bill was supposed to prevent something like this from happening, it failed -- does the regulation need to go further?" asked Denver7 Reporter Jennifer Kovaleski.

"We're in talks right now in regards to how much further we need to go," answered Rep. Ginal.

She said one thing being considered to make the law tougher is adding accountability to the information surgical techs are required to report. Right now, there is none.

"It's self-reporting to DORA and who is going to self-report that they have substance or drug abuse or an alcohol issue?" asked Ginal.

Nine other states also require certification and education requirements for surgical techs. 

Rep. Ginal said that option is not off the table, but it's a question of money.

The National Association of Surgical Technologists also supports more regulation. 

The Department of Regulatory Affairs (DORA) has recommended the state do away with the register saying it is duplicative.

A new version of House Bill 1160, with stronger amendments, is set to be introduced in committee on March 15. 


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