Exeter Hospital Worker Charged in Hepatitis C Disaster
Thirty patients so far have been infected with the disease.
Exeter, NH – Exeter Hospital worker David Matthew Kwiatkowski, who officials say had hepatitis C and spread the disease to 30 unsuspecting patients by stealing drugs, has been arrested, the U.S. Attorney's office in New Hampshire announced Thursday.
Kwiatkowsi, 32, of Exeter, was arrested this morning at a hospital in Massachusetts, where he's receiving treatment for hepatitis C. He's charged with fraud and tampering.
He faces up to 24 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
"We have eliminated the menace this 'serial infector' posed to public health and safety," said U.S. Attorney John Kacavas.
Kacavas said Kwiatkowski knew he had hepatitis C as early as June 2010.
"That's the defintion of reckless disregard," Kacavas said.
Kwiatkowski was not drug-tested by Exeter Hospital. New Hampshire doesn't require drug testing for hospital employees.
Kacavas said it's unclear if Kwiatkowski worked with others at the hospital to steal drugs.
“It is deeply disturbing that the alleged callous acts of one individual can have such an impact on so many innocent lives," Exeter Hospital President Kevin Callhan said in a statement. "The events of the past several months have demonstrated that no healthcare organization can rest in its pursuit of the highest possible quality and safety for its patients."
Kwiatkowski worked in Exeter Hospital's cardiac catheterization lab, where he spread the disease by injecting himself with drugs like Fentanyl to get high and then replacing the needles with other fluids. Those tainted needles were then used on patients. The tactic is called "drug diversion."
Kacavas said Kwiatkowski exhibited suspicious behavior, including working on his days off and dripping with sweat on occasion.
Kwiatkowski was a "traveler," a medical technician who did work in New Hampshire and several other states. Officials are investigating if he may have spread hepatitis C to patients in those other states.
Kacavas said he will not reveal what other hospitals Kwiatkowski worked at, saying it's part of an ongoing investigation.
"We are closer to the beginning of our investigation than at the end of it," he said. "This has the potential (to have) far-reaching implications."
Kwiatkowski is a fun-loving bachelor who had a tattoo, owned a dog, and loved sports teams from his hometown in Michigan, according to his Facebook profile.
There's a chance the victim toll in the hepatitis C outbreak could rise, as test results are still coming back on more than 1,000 patients who may have been exposed to the outbreak.
In a similar drug diversion case in Colorado, a hospital worker was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Hepatitis C is a potentially fatal liver disease. It can be treated with combinations of medication.
Exeter Hospital is currently facing more than a dozen lawsuits related to the outbreak.
Today's arrest was the result of an investigation involving the U.S. Attorney's office, the FBI, and the state Department of Health and Human Services, among other agencies.
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