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Medical worker charged in Hepatitis C infections

November 29, 2012|By Richard A. Serrano
  • The Exeter Hospital in Exeter, N.H. A Merrimack County Superior Court judge is deciding what limits, if any, to impose on the state as it seeks patient records related to a Hepatitis C outbreak at the hospital.
The Exeter Hospital in Exeter, N.H. A Merrimack County Superior Court judge… (Jim Cole / Associated Press )

WASHINGTON – A nomadic medical technician who wandered in and out of hospital jobs from the desert Southwest to New England was indicted Thursday by a federal grand jury in connection with a Hepatitis C outbreak that infected more than 30 patients at a New Hampshire hospital with the potentially life-threatening disease, and possibly 4,000 more in Pennsylvania, Maryland and other states.

David M. Kwiatkowski, a  33-year-old former radiology tech, was charged with seven counts of tampering with a consumer product and seven counts of obtaining controlled substances by fraud. A carrier of the virus himself, he allegedly stole hospital syringes, injected himself, then secretly placed the tainted syringes for use on hospital patients.

He has carried the disease since at least June 2010, authorities said, and they believe he purposely sought to infect as many others as he could as he crisscrossed the country, accepting and leaving new jobs at hospitals and healthcare facilities. When he was found in a Holiday Inn motel room in Massachusetts, officers discovered six types of medication and various  pills scattered on the floor and a glass table.

He was drunk, disheveled and confused,  and reportedly left a suicide note to a friend, according to police reports. “Please call [her] and let her know I passed away,” Kwiatkowski allegedly wrote. “Tell her I couldn’t handle this stress anymore. … She’ll know what to do.”

Kwiatkowski faces up to 98 years in prison if convicted on each of the 11 counts, as well as a $250,000 fine.

In the last few months a hospital in Pittsburgh has sent letters to 2,000 patients warning that he might have infected them with the blood-borne virus, and four hospitals in Maryland have begun testing  1,700 patients to see whether they had been given the disease.

In addition, several patients tested positive for Hepatitis C in early May at the Exeter Hospital in Exeter, N.H., and that number has now grown beyond 30. It was their infections that led to the  federal case and indictment against Kwiatkowski.

“This has been a difficult time for our patients and the community,” the 100-bed hospital said in an alert on its website. “While this situation has shaken the community,  we will continue to do everything we can to restore the community's confidence…. We continue to do everything we can to complete the patient testing and help to bring the investigation to a close.”

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richard.serrano@latimes.com

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