July 3, 2009

Hospital Employee May Have Infected Thousands With Hepatitis C

Former surgery technician Kristen Diane Parker is at the center of a federal investigation for possibly exposing about 6,000 surgery patients to hepatitis C.

Authorities told reporters that Parker, who was working at Audubon Ambulatory Surgery Center in Colorado Springs and Rose Medical Center in Denver, admitted to swapping her personal syringes used to inject a saline solution with syringes that contained a powerful painkiller known as Fentanyl.

So far, nine surgery patients at the center have tested positive for the incurable disease, according to an affidavit by Food and Drug Administration investigator Mary F. LaFrance.

Parker, 26, had worked at the hospital from October 2008 to April 13, when she was suspended for testing positive for Fentanyl.

After her suspension, Parker moved to Audubon to work at the surgery center from May 4 until Monday, Dr. J. Michael Hall, Audubon's medical director, told The Gazette newspaper in Colorado Springs.

Parker faces prison time of up to 10 years and a fine not to exceed $250,000 if found guilty of tampering.

"We consulted with the Health Department and the Centers for Disease Control and decided the best precaution for our patients is to offer free, confidential and individual testing to everyone who had surgery at Rose Medical Center," Jeff Dorsey, a spokesman for the hospital, told reporters.

"Someone in this particular case violated the trust everyone has, and that we value."

The hospital is in the process of contacting about 6,000 patients to inform them that the incident may have caused them to be exposed to hepatitis C.


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