DENVER - The Association of Surgical Technologists is pushing for stronger regulations after a surgical tech was arrested, accused of stealing powerful drugs and putting thousands of Colorado patients at risk.
Swedish Medical Center fired Rocky Allen, 28, in January after investigators say he swapped out a medical syringe of Fentanyl and replaced it with another labeled syringe.
As a result, Swedish has asked 2,900 people who underwent surgery there between Aug. 17 and Jan. 22 to get tested for hepatitis B and C and HIV.
"To do something to put our patients at harm, it's really saddening," said certified surgical technologists Holly Falcon. "It's heartbreaking, and we're angry."
Falcon is also the vice president of the Association of Surgical Technologists based in Littleton.
She said what happened at Swedish gives her profession a bad name, and all of it could have been prevented.
"I think that regulation is the key," said Falcon. "We don't have a license to lose, we don't have to be certified to work -- therefore anybody who has these issues could theoretically go to another hospital and be working again next week."
Colorado only requires surgical technologists to register with the state, and self-report bad behavior. There are currently no certification or education guidelines for surgical techs in our state.
Nine states have laws setting minimum standards for education and certification of surgical technologists: Idaho, Indiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas, according to the Association of Surgical Technologists.
According to Allen's state registration, he was a non-certified tech with "no" administrative actions taken against him.
However, that's not true.
John C. Lincoln Memorial Hospital in Phoenix told Denver7 that Rocky Allen, 28, worked there as a surgical tech from July 28 to Sept. 26, 2014.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the hospital said Allen "was terminated for violation of workplace policy when he tested positive for use of a controlled substance."
"There's no accountability factor," said Falcon.
Colorado's current regulation for surgical techs is up for a sunset review at the state capitol.
The Association of Surgical Technologist is pushing for the registry to stay in place - even though Colorado's Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) has recommended to lawmakers that it not be renewed.
DORA has called the registry duplicative.
"I think it's crazy to say that surgical technologists don't need to be regulated, and situations such as this are proof that we need to increase the awareness," said Falcon.
Falcon also said while Colorado doesn't require surgical techs to be certified, patients can ask for a certified surgical tech to be in the operating room while their having surgery.
"Everybody in the operating room is regulated, except surgical technologists," she said.