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Patients file suit in case of possible HIV, Hepatitis infections

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DENVER - Dozens of patients warned of possible exposure to HIV and Hepatitis B and C have filed suit against the medical center in Colorado that employed a surgical technician who is now under federal indictment.

At least 30 patients joined the lawsuit against Swedish Medical Center in Englewood, Colo., alleging the hospital failed to protect them from an employee accused of injecting himself with syringes full of Fentanyl, then placing those syringes and used needles back into circulation to be used on patients.

“Defendants employed a long-time drug addict, Rocky Allen, as a surgical technician without adequately conducting a background check, without adequately supervising him, and without putting in place adequate safeguards to protect the patients entrusted to their care,” according to the lawsuit, filed in Denver County District Court early Friday morning.

An attorney for the patients told “Q13 News This Morning” that several may have contracted viruses due to Allen’s alleged actions and the hospital’s neglect.

“They hired this gentleman who was a known drug abuser, who had a high propensity of repeating the conduct and therefore exposing their patients to these infections,” said Jim Avery of the Avery Law Firm. “It’s too early to say if any or all of them have been infected by a virus that was transmitted by Rocky Allen, but they were still exposed to the risk and they still suffered the emotional harm that goes with that. Many of these patients suffered extreme pain because their pain-killer was substituted with saline.”

At least 5,000 patents in four states where Allen worked, including Washington, have been warned of possible infections.

Avery said his office is preparing to file suit against Northwest Hospital & Medical Center in Seattle, where Allen worked from Dec. 30, 2011, to March 9, 2012, before being fired for unknown reasons. The hospital sent letters to 1,340 patients, urging them to get tested.

“There are so many different emotions that come through. You're angry, you're confused why anybody would do this,” said Carina Sauerzopf, a former patient of Northwest Hospital who claims she contracted hepatitis after undergoing surgery there during the time frame of the possible exposures.

Allen also worked at Lakewood Surgery from Oct. 27, 2011, to Dec. 1, 2011. At least 135 of their patients have also received letters.

After being fired from Northwest Hospital, Allen went on to be fired from another medical center in California and two in Arizona, before landing in Englewood.

Northwest Hospital has so far refused to disclose the reason Allen was fired, and whether the conduct that led to his termination should have prevented him from getting other jobs in the medical field.

Allen, 28, has been indicted on charges of tampering with a consumer product and obtaining a controlled substance by deceit. He has pleaded not guilty in federal court in Colorado and is set to go to trial in August.