Surgery Pro Rocky Allen's Alleged Drug Theft Leads to Hep B Tests for 3K Patients

Nearly 3,000 patients of Swedish Medical Center will be receiving an unsettling letter.

The missive, on view below, informs them that they should be tested for hepatitis B and C, as well as HIV, because of "possible drug diversion (the stealing of narcotic pain medication intended for patients) by a former employee, a surgical technician, which may have put some surgical patients at risk."

The individual in question has been identified by the Englewood Police Department as surgical technologist Rocky Allen, 28.

And while there's no evidence yet that Allen infected anyone with the maladies in question, his situation recalls 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 the painkiller fentanyl.

Numerous patients were infected, including Lauren Lollini, among the subjects of a Westword feature article.

The following year, 2010, Parker was sentenced to thirty years in prison for the offense.

Allen's Facebook page has been taken down.

Before it vanished, however, 7News managed to grab numerous photos from his gallery, including this one....

...and this one:

The station also found an August 2015 post in which he exulted about his new gig at Swedish.

""So it's official, I start my new job at Swedish Medical on Monday!" he wrote. "Super excited to be back in the OR and fixing some people!"

Investigators believe he did more than that.

On January 22, Allen reportedly swapped out the label of a syringe loaded with fentanyl — yes, the same substance that had attracted Parker. 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 and January.

The estimate: approximately 2,900 people.

The letter reaching out to them is dated February 1 and signed by Richard A. Hammet, the president and CEO of Swedish.

Another passage reads:
At Swedish Medical Center, we take to heart every day our mission, “Above All Else, We Are Committed to the Care and Improvement of Human Life.” Swedish employees, nurses and physicians work very hard to ensure the safest, quality patient experience. 

We deeply regret that one of our former employees may have put patients at risk; and are sorry for any uncertainty or anxiety this may cause. Please know our first concern is your health, and the care, safety and privacy of our patients.

Then, yesterday, the following notice was shared on the Swedish Medical Center Facebook page:
The Swedish Patient Care Call Line can be reached at 303-728-7140. Please keep in mind, we are attempting to reach patients who had surgery at Swedish Medical Center between August 17, 2015 and January 22, 2016 to take a free, confidential blood test to screen for viruses. Our first priority is to reach these affected patients. If you were not a patient at Swedish between these dates you are not at risk and we request that you call back at a later time with general questions so that we may focus on notifying affected patients.
Thus far, there's no word about formal charges against Allen — and if no one is infected by hepatitis or HIV, the potential accusations against him may be less serious than those that put Parker in the slammer for a three-decade jolt.

In the meantime, nearly 3,000 people are no doubt feeling a great deal of anxiety.

Here's a 7News piece on the case, one from Fox31 in which Allen briefly appears on camera, and the aforementioned letter.

Swedish Medical Center Patient Letter

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts