SEATTLE -- In Colorado, surgery technician Rocky Allen is accused of using syringes to inject narcotics into himself and then putting used needles back into rotation for surgery patients.
Allen previously worked at several hospitals in Washington, including two Seattle-area hospitals. Now hospital officials are urging 1,500 former patients to get tested for HIV and hepatitis B and C.
Allen first worked at Lakewood Surgery Center followed by Northwest Hospital. The Washington Department of Health says he worked at Naval Hospital Bremerton as well. But the hospital there told Q13 News that Allen did not have dealings with patients during surgery there.
“I work as a nurse at another hospital; I can see how horrible this is for the whole community,” Helena Hileman said.
Lakewood Surgery sent hundreds of patients a letter saying that between Oct. 27, 2011, and Dec. 1, 2011, Allen could have potentially exposed patients to hepatitis B, C and HIV. Seattle's Northwest Hospital sent a similar message to about 1,300 former patients who had surgery between December 30, 2011, and March 9, 2012, and urged them to get tested.
The Health Department emphasized that the exposure to the patients in Washington is extremely low.
But in Colorado, authorities say Allen is accused of tampering and stealing narcotics.
“He was using the syringes on himself; if part of it was used for him, then the rest was used for a patient, then there could be a risk of transmission,” Health Department spokesperson Julie Graham said.
Q13 FOX's sister station in Denver spoke with attorney Jim Avery, who is now representing more than a dozen patients.
“This is a case that really needs to be investigated. How did this happen in an operating room that`s supposed to be a sterile environment?” Avery asked.
Avery claims two of his clients tested positive for hepatitis B.
Allen, who is now facing federal charges, declined to talk to a reporter in Colorado when asked if he had anything to say to defend himself.
Northwest Hospital says their preliminary investigation has found no evidence that Allen was behaving the same way in Washington.
“We have no evidence of any patient exposure at Northwest Hospital. We understand this situation may be concerning to our patients,” spokesperson Kathy Peck said.
“I know every hospital does its best for safe care for their patients. This is incredible that this happened. I can feel for them,” Hileman said.
Allen is not charged with a crime in Washington.
Northwest Hospital says they fired Allen in 2012, but they would not disclose the reason.
The state Health Department says none of the hospitals ever reported Allen to them so they couldn’t do an investigation on the surgery technician in the past. But the spokeswoman says now they are investigating, and Allen's license in the state has since been suspended.