June 11, 2010
On June 5, Gov. Bill Ritter signed into law two measures crafted to prevent drug-addicted medical personnel from working in hospitals.
The laws require employers to report health care workers under suspicion to the state Department of Health within two weeks and to make information about these workers available to the public, including potential future employers. Two recent cases prompted the legislation.
Earlier in 2010, surgery technician Kristen Diane Parker admitted a drug-theft and needle-swap scheme that exposed about 6,000 patients to her hepatitis C infection. Although fired from Rose Medical Center in Denver and reported to state authorities, Parker got a job at Audubon Surgery Center in Colorado Springs. Before coming to Colorado, she had stolen drugs while working at hospitals in Houston and Mount Kisco, N.Y. She was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
In a separate case, Ashton Daigle, a nurse, was sentenced to four and a half years in prison for stealing syringes filled with medication intended for patients at Boulder Community Hospital.
Rep. Debbie Benefield (D-Arvada), the sponsor of one of the bills, said increased reporting could help stop drug-addicted medical workers from changing jobs to feed a habit without being detected.
"No one should have to worry about contracting a disease while undergoing surgery, and dangerous health care workers should never have a second chance to endanger patients," said Benefield.
The other new law sets up a statewide registry of surgical technologists and assistants. Employers will have to verify that prospective employees are in good standing before they can be hired.
The Association of Surgical Technologists is on record supporting the two laws.
Colorado now joins six other states -- Indiana, Illinois, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington -- with laws that regulate surgical technicians.