Deep Background

Background screening of health workers can fail miserably

One would think background checks would be routine in hiring medical personnel making life-and-death decisions about ill people – but it turns out they’re sometimes ineffective.  In early 2016, a surgical technician in a Colorado hospital stole a syringe filled with the painkiller fentanyl and replaced it with one filled with saline solution to be used to ease a patient’s pain.  It emerged that the tech, Rocky Allen, was HIV-positive.  The Englewood, Colo.-based hospital notified 2,900 people who had surgery during Allen’s time there that they should be tested for HIV.  The hospital said it had known nothing of his history of serious drug problems.  As a Navy medic in Afghanistan in 2011, Allen had been caught stealing fentanyl by breaking into lockers at a military hospital, and was convicted for larceny and other charges.  He also had been fired from at least five hospitals in Colorado and other states.  “His theft of opiates, in particular fentanyl, occurred at virtually each and every healthcare facility dating back to his employment in the Navy,” U.S. prosecutors said in a May 2016 court document.  He omitted most of the previous jobs from his employment applications, fabricated a staffing firm as his employer and forged an ex-boyfriend’s signature on a job verification form, prosecutors said in court.  Allen pleaded guilty in July 2016 to various federal charges, and in November 2016 he was sentenced to 6½ years in prison.  In response to the Allen case, the Colorado legislature has passed legislation requiring some medical personnel to be finger-printed for criminal background checks.  “There should be a national registry for all medical workers with access to drugs and patients, experts say, because having requirements vary from state to state leaves room for criminals to slip through the cracks,” the Associated Press said.

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