Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla. Photo courtesy of the Scripps Health

A technician charged with tampering and trying to steal syringes containing the powerful painkiller fentanyl at a hospital in Colorado was fired as a trainee at Scripps Green Hospital more than two years ago, Scripps Health announced Monday.

Scripps is offering free, confidential testing for more than 500 patients who might have come into contact with Rocky Allen, who was a surgical technician trainee at the La Jolla hospital for 20 days in May and June 2013.

Allen’s alleged actions might have caused a risk for exposure to HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C, according to Scripps. The Denver Post reported that more than 2,900 patients were tested for the illnesses by Swedish Medical Center, in Englewood, Colorado.

“We believe the risk of exposure to illness is extremely low,” said Dr. Maida Soghikian, chief of staff for Scripps Green Hospital.

“Patient safety is our highest priority and of paramount concern,” Soghikian said. “We believe the right thing for our patients is to offer testing in order to allay any anxiety. We regret that this terminated employee would cause this level of concern for our patients.”

Allen, 28, was arrested last week and charged in Colorado with tampering with a consumer product and obtaining a controlled substance by deceit.

A federal court order Friday revealed that he carries an unnamed bloodborne illness, which could include HIV or hepatitis, the Denver newspaper reported.

At the hearing, a special agent of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration testified that a witness at Swedish saw Allen replace a fentanyl syringe with another that contained none of the painkiller.

Scripps Health said Allen’s training was terminated when it was determined he tried to switch a syringe of fentanyl citrate with a syringe of saline. Because Allen was under close supervision during his training period, it is believed he would have had little opportunity to successfully switch patient medications, Scripps officials said.

Scripps officials said they notified the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency of the reason for his termination.

The notification only involves patients who had surgical procedures at Scripps Green Hospital between May 9 and June 7, 2013, during the shifts that Allen worked. The notification will include instructions regarding testing and all the information that patients will need.

Allen also worked for a pair of Phoenix-area hospitals, one of which fired him for using a controlled substance, according to the Denver Post.

–City News Service

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