Last month, we told you about accusations against Rocky Allen, a surgical technician whose alleged theft of the painkiller fentanyl led to fears that nearly 3,000 patients of Swedish Medical Center could have been infected by hepatitis B and C or HIV.
Now, another medical professional — Kim Burgans, a nurse at St. Anthony Summit Medical Center in Frisco — has been charged with swiping fentanyl by prosecutors in the Fifth Judicial District.
This development took place mere weeks after two men, William Lancaster and Brandon Johnson, were indicted for a fatal fentanyl overdose in the same jurisdiction.
On January 22, as we've reported, Allen reportedly swapped out the label of a syringe loaded with fentanyl. Afterward, he's said to have tested positive for fentanyl (as well as marijuana), leading to the supposition that he's an intravenous drug user.
A week later, Allen's license as a surgical tech was suspended.
In the days after Allen's alleged fentanyl gambit was discovered, Swedish officials scrambled to determine how many patients may have undergone surgical procedures at which Allen was present between August 2015 and this January.
The estimate: approximately 2,900 people.
The situation recalled the notorious case of Kristen Parker, an operating-room technician at Rose Medical Center charged in 2009 with exposing patients to hepatitis C by exchanging dirty syringes filled with saline for new ones loaded with fentanyl.
The following year, 2010, Parker was sentenced to thirty years in prison for the offense.
As for Burgans, CBS4 reports that she was fired by the Summit Medical Center on January 28 after she came under suspicion of absconding with fentanyl.
She now faces tentative charges of theft and obtaining a controlled substance by fraud or deceit.
She turned herself in to authorities on Saturday, March 19.
Thus far, there's no indication that anyone was infected as a consequence of Burgans's actions — something emphasized in a statement released by the hospital.
St. Anthony Summit Medical Center has clear clinical guidelines and policies surrounding the safe handling, dispensing and disposal of narcotics. Our number one priority is always the care and safety of our patients.
In accordance with St. Anthony Summit Medical Center’s practices and policies, an internal investigation was conducted and found there is no reason to believe that any patients were harmed or compromised in this situation. Burgans was terminated from the hospital on Jan. 27, 2016 for violating hospital policies.
We remain vigilant in our efforts to ensure our processes and procedures are followed and are committed to employing national guidelines and best practices to ensure the safety of our patients.
Still, the dangers of fentanyl are very much on the minds of folks at the Fifth Judicial District DA's office, as indicated by a February 26 news release about another case.
That's when indictments were announced against William Lancaster and Brandon Johnson in regard to the fentanyl overdose of Mark Largay.
They're accused of felony manslaughter for allegedly selling Largay fentanyl in the form of a transdermal patch.
On November 1, 2015, according to the indictment, Largay exchanged text messages with Johnson in regard to purchasing the patches, then drove to Denver, where the latter was living, to pick them up.
Meanwhile, the indictment maintains, Largay was communicating with Lancaster, his housemate, about the substance.
Lancaster is quoted as texting that Largay needed to be "super-careful" while smoking fentanyl "because people die that way all the time."
On November 2, Largay did. He was found unconscious in his Summit County home and he failed to respond to medical treatment.
An autopsy later revealed that he had died of a fentanyl overdose.
The DA's office makes it clear that abuse of fentanyl and other opioids is on the rise. Here's an excerpt from its release:
In December 2015 the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) reported that since 2000 the rate of deaths from drug overdoses has increased 137 percent including a 200 percent increase in the rate of overdose deaths involving opioids (pain relievers and heroin). The age-adjusted rate of death involving natural and semi-synthetic opioid pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids, other than methadone (fentanyl) increased by 9% in 2012, 26 percent in 2013 and 80 percent in 2014.
No court date has been set for Burgans in the fentanyl theft case. In the meantime, we offer our sincere condolences to the friends, family and loved ones of Mark Largay.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Continue to see booking photos for Burgans, Lancaster and Johnson, followed by the aforementioned CBS4 item about the former's indictment.