A former hospital worker was sentenced to 39 years in prison after causing a hepatitis C outbreak among surgery patients. The worker was found to be taking syringes with painkillers and injecting them into himself before refilling the syringes with water and injecting patients with the tainted solution.
Hospital Staff Stealing Patient Painkillers and Sharing Needles
In 2011, New Hampshire's Exeter hospital hired David Kwiatowski as a traveling medical technician from a staffing agency. Kwiatowski was later hired full-time as a tech in the hospital's cardiac catheterization lab. Oddly, he would even come in on his days off or attend procedures he was not assigned to.
Surgical patients were often administered syringes containing fentanyl, a powerful painkiller and opiate drug with a high potential for abuse. The hospital said Kwiatowski did not have direct access to the drugs but stole them from other workers as the patients were being prepared for surgery.
According to a statement from the U.S. attorney's office in the case, "Kwiatkowski used the stolen syringes to inject himself, causing them to become tainted with his infected blood, before filling them with saline and then replacing them for use in the medical procedure."
Kwiatowski had known since 2010 that he had been diagnosed with hepatitis C. Instead of receiving the prescribed pain medication during surgery, the affected patients were receiving a simple saline solution tainted with Kwiatowski's hepatitis C infected blood.
Between about April 2011 and May 2012, multiple surgical patients passed through the hospital and were at risk of contracting hepatitis C from Kwiatowski's used syringes. At least 30 people were infected and another 6,000 patients were asked to get tested for hepatitis C.
Hospital Worker Had a History of Abuse
As a traveling medical technician, Kwiatowski had been sent by the medical staffing agency to hospitals across the country, including Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Kansas. Before going to New Hampshire, Kwiatowski was working at a hospital in Arizona. During his time at the Arizona Heart Hospital, Kwiatowski was found passed out in the men's room with a syringe floating in the toilet. Kwiatowski was immediately fired.
At least one of the patients and the hospital where the infections occurred filed a lawsuit against the staffing company that had placed Kwiatowski. The hospital's lawsuit alleges the Michigan-based company was negligent in placing Kwiatowski at Exeter, especially after he relinquished his license after being fired in Arizona.
Hepatitis C and Injections
Hepatitis C is a serious liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus. The majority of people who are infected with hepatitis C develop a chronic infection that can cause liver damage, liver failure, or liver cancer. Hepatitis C is a bloodborne pathogen that can be transmitted through exposure to infected blood. Some of the ways hepatitis C is transmitted is through:
- Sharing or reusing IV needles
- Contaminated tattoo or piercing equipment
- Unprotected sex
- From pregnant mother to baby
Hospitals should be responsible for negligent hiring of medical staff who put patients at risk of injury, infection or harm. If you or a family member suffered an infection in a hospital setting, contact the medical malpractice lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian online to get started on your case.