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Surgical Tech's Hep C Case Expands To New York
 
 
  UPDATED: 4:02 pm MDT July 15, 2009
http://www.thedenverchannel.com

DENVER -- The case of a Colorado surgical technician suspected of exposing patients to hepatitis C is expanding to New York, where health officials are urging patients to be tested for hep c, and could expand to Texas.

Kristen Parker told investigators with the Denver Police Department during her taped interview on June 30 that before coming to Colorado, she worked at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, New York.

The state Health Department is recommending that only those patients who had surgery at NWH between October 8, 2007 and February 28, 2008 be tested for hepatitis C. the testing is being coordinated by the hospital and a patient help line at 1-914-666-1902 is available for questions.

On Wednesday, the New York Department of Health told 7NEWS that the Westchester County Hospital is notifying approximately 2,800 patients by letter of possible exposure to hepatitis C. The affected patients were seen during the time Parker was employed at that hospital -- between Oct. 8, 2007 and Feb. 28, 2008.

Although no patients at Northern Westchester are known to have contracted the virus in connection with Parker's employment, New York health officials said additional information has emerged suggesting Parker may have engaged in similar conduct when employed there.

"In Colorado she is alleged to have self-injected narcotic pain medications using syringes that she later filled and replaced, possibly exposing patients to infection ... Parker may have engaged in similar conduct when employed at NWH, although it is not known whether she was infected with hepatitis C at that time," said Claire Pospisil, with the New York Department of Health. "The State Health Department is working closely with the hospital to ensure that any patients who underwent surgery at the hospital while Parker worked there are contacted and offered free testing."

Parker also worked at Christus St John Hospital in Houston, Texas from May 9, 2005 until Oct. 4, 2006.

St. John spokeswoman Cary EB Heath told 7NEWS the hospital has been contacted by the Texas Department of Health, Infectious Disease Control Unit, who is working in collaboration with the Colorado Department of Health to see if Parker could have exposed any patients in Texas.

Federal investigators said they are expanding the scope of their investigation to include both New York and Houston hospitals.

Kristen Parker Admits To Stealing Drugs In Videotaped Interview

"I was let go at Northern Westchester for attendance. I was in a car wreck and took some time off to see the doc. One day I came in and they said, 'Here's your pink slip,'" Parker said during her videotaped interview with police.

Parker said she had never been fired for drug diversion before but stopped short of saying, specifically, if she had ever stolen narcotics before at her previous jobs.

"I would get a bottle of sterile saline out of the cabinet and just pull out 5 ccs worth. And I'd put a label on it and then usually wait until the anesthesiologist walked out of the room and just switch them," Parker said.

In the interview, she told the police detective that she would use the drug Fentanyl at work, on lunch breaks and at home, even bringing the needles back to the hospital after injecting the painkiller into her arm.

"I have a couple of times. I would mainly keep it on myself and switch it out. If I had two syringes in my pocket I'd just grab one, and pull up the saline, you know, and there's no knowing if that was the clean one or if it was the dirty one," she said in the recording. "It was just Fentanyl. I never took anything else."

She admitted to using heroine and sharing dirty needles between July and September 2008 while living in New Jersey, and said that is when she was infected with hepatitis c. That was shortly before being hired at Rose Medical Center.

But she also admitted her struggle with drugs started many years ago.

"Painkillers, pills. I had reconstructive jaw surgery when I was 7 and had my jaw shut for a month. I guess you can say that got the ball rolling of what they do to help the pain," Parker said.

Parker is currently facing three federal drug charges. If convicted, she faces a maximum of 34 years in prison. But if prosecutors can prove she caused patients serious bodily injury or death, she could spend the rest of her life in federal prison.

It's clear that Parker was nervous when talking with investigators. She showed some hesitation, even asking if it was in her best interest to continue sharing her story.

The videotaped interview was shown during her first hearing in federal court on drug diversion charges. She was accused of stealing Fentanyl during the time she worked at Rose Medical Center in Denver and the Audubon Surgical Center in Colorado Springs.

Parker admitted to police that she injected herself with painkillers meant for patients, then filled the used syringes with saline solution, which were later used on patients.

"When did you start diverting at Rose?" the detective asked on the videotape.

"Probably after the first of year," she answered casually.

"After Jan. 1? Do you remember a specific date?" the detective asked.

"No sir," she said.

"Why did you start?" the detective asked.

"I wish I knew. I really do. I've had trouble with drugs in the past," she said.

At one point during the recorded interview, Parker cried.

"I didn't know that this was going to happen. I mean, to the extent people would get sick for the rest of their lives because of me. And I can't take it back," Parker said, sobbing. "Now, I've got to live with what I did for the rest of my life and so does everybody else."

Up to 6,000 patients from Rose Medical Center and Audubon Surgery Center have received letters warning them of possible exposure to hepatitis C. Ten hepatitis C cases have been linked to Rose hospital but it's not clear if Parker is the source of their infection.

"I want to get that help and become, become normal again," she said, wiping away tears. "Become a good person again. I know I'm a good person, you know. I know I'm a smart person. I just do stupid stuff."

In the nearly hourlong interview, Parker would also tell the detective that Rose staffers could have done more to make it harder for her to steal the medicine.

"If (the drugs) were locked up or on the doctor's body or what not, then you really have nothing to worry about," Parker said.

Parker remains in federal custody without bond.

 
 
 
 
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