An open letter to New Hampshire’s Exeter Hospital.
To Whom It May Concern:
You may find the outrage I’m about to unleash unfair. But the Hepatitis C scare caused by your lax security has threatened someone I love and thousands of others. I spent my childhood in and out of the hospital, getting stuck with needles weekly and sometimes daily. I had a blood transfusion in the 1970s, before blood was tested for AIDS contamination, so I know the fear many of your patients feel right now.
I just read about your clash with state health officials over whether some of your employees should be tested for Hepatitis C along with thousands of your patients. The state is worried that more than one employee was involved in your outbreak because another patient contracted Hep C even though that patient had a procedure at the hospital prior to David Kwiatkowski working there.
State officials are practicing the due diligence you failed to practice when your lax procedures made it easier for Kwiatkowski to steal drugs and leave contaminated needles behind — needles that were then used on your patients. You cite your employees’ right to privacy, which is pathetic. Your first responsibility is to your patients and employees, protecting both from being infected and taking care of them if they become so.
You’re probably thinking, “Who is this jerk to criticize us? We’re the hospital that blew the whistle on Kwiatkowski when hospitals across the country had failed to contact the police after he was caught doing the same thing in their facilities.”
I do give you credit for blowing the whistle, and I agree this isn’t just about your hospital. The entire system failed to protect the public from this monster. Hopefully, this will lead to better reporting in and more cooperation between all states.
That doesn’t absolve you of all responsibility. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services found that you “failed to follow standard procedures for preventing the abuse of powerful narcotics administered by staff,” according to an Exeter Patch article. Their investigation found that drugs were not secured to prevent theft by employees who should not have had access to them, among other violations. Your president and CEO, Kevin J. Callahan, failed to apologize for this when he was busy writing a letter to the editor about how proud he was of his institution’s response to the crisis.
Now you balk at the state’s plan to test other employees because of their right to privacy? Give me a break. What about their health?
As I sit here waiting to learn if my relative has Hepatitis C or not, the last thing on my mind is the privacy of your employees. Do I think most of them are excellent at what they do and free of blame here? Absolutely.
But when there’s a danger of Hepatitis C spreading further, you have to stop complaining and roll up your sleeves.
For the sake of your patients and your employees, let state health officials do their job.