Imagine receiving a letter from the hospital where you had surgery, advising you to have yourself immediately tested for HIV, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C because you may have been exposed to a bloodborne pathogen during your surgery due to one of the hospital’s surgical technicians diverting drugs and exchanging needles prepared for surgical patients.
Now imagine the other approximately 3,000 hospital patients who received similar letters from the same hospital who had surgeries during the period of time that the former surgical technician, who had a well-documented drug addiction and habitual needle swapping history, was employed by the hospital (he was employed by the defendant hospital from August 17, 2015 to January 22, 2016).
A Colorado federal class-action lawsuit filed on March 8, 2016 in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado alleges that on January 22, 2016, the defendant hospital’s former surgical technician was caught taking a syringe filled with fentanyl and replacing it with another syringe in an operating room (the former employee, who was apparently scheduled to be in Operating Room 12 on that day, allegedly walked into Operating Room 5, spoke with other individuals, then went to the Pyxis station, picked up a syringe and replaced it with another one before quickly leaving the room). On January 22, 2016, the former employee allegedly tested positive for high levels of fentanyl and marijuana, after which he was fired and subsequently indicted by a federal grand jury in Colorado on charges of tampering with a consumer product and obtaining a controlled substance by deceit.
The defendants had hired the surgical technician on August 17, 2015, giving him access to operating rooms and syringes containing fentanyl and other narcotics, despite the surgical technician having been previously terminated by numerous other hospitals for the same conduct and despite his history of drug addiction (in 2011, the surgical technician was court-martialed by the United States Navy and pleaded guilty to making a false official statement, wrongfully possessing approximately 30 vials of fentanyl, wrongly possessing a syringe containing fentanyl, stealing fentanyl and stealing a syringe containing fentanyl; in 2013, a California hospital had terminated the surgical technician after he was caught switching a fentanyl syringe with a saline-filled syringe (he had removed the syringe from his sock and admitted that he planned to inject it); in July 2014, he tested positive for marijuana by an Arizona hospital where he worked as a surgical technologist; and, in September 2014, he tested positive for fentanyl while working as a surgical attendant at another Arizona hospital).
During the former surgical technician’s bond hearing on February 19, 2016, his medical records were introduced as evidence under seal that allegedly mentioned that he was a carrier of a communicable disease (a bloodborne pathogen).
The Colorado class-action lawsuit alleges that the defendants were negligent in their hiring and supervisory process, creating a significantly increased risk of and actual harm to the plaintiffs and the class members and consequently harm to other persons who were exposed to increased risks of contracting bloodborne pathogens unknowingly from the plaintiffs and the class members, and that the defendants failed to properly supervise the former surgical technician by failing to take preventive steps to prevent employees such as him from engaging in the conduct that exposed the plaintiffs and the class members to the increased risk of contracting bloodborne pathogens.
The Colorado class-action lawsuit further alleges that the defendants hired the former employee as a surgical technician despite his well-documented history of drug addiction and history of employment terminations for drug-related issues, granting him access to surgical rooms, surgical equipment, and controlled substances without taking adequate precautions.
The plaintiffs seek certification of class-action status, medical monitoring, monetary damages, and other relief.
Source Porras, et al. v. Hospital Corporation of America, et al., Case 1:16-cv-00568.
If you or a loved one suffered a serious injury (or worse) due to hospital malpractice in Colorado or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find a hospital malpractice lawyer in Colorado or a hospital malpractice lawyer in your state who may investigate your hospital malpractice claim for you and represent you in a hospital medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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