Exeter Hospital’s Hepatitis C Scare Hits Close to Home

by Bill Brenner on August 15, 2012

David Kwiatkowski made national news for spreading Hepatitis C to patients at Exeter Hospital in N.H. He worked his way across the country, getting fired from several hospitals but escaping arrest until officials at Exeter blew the whistle. The story hits too close to home, as a relative was potentially exposed during an ER visit there last fall.

Mood music:

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To date, 31 patients have tested positive for Hepatitus C. The hospital realized something was horribly wrong after a cluster of patients from the Cardiac Catheterization Unit Kwiatkowski was assigned to were diagnosed with the potentially life-threatening disease.

According to Exeter Patch, The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services found that the hospital “failed to follow standard procedures for preventing the abuse of powerful narcotics administered by staff.” The investigation found drugs were not secured to prevent theft by employees who should not have had access to them, among other violations, the publication said.

Exeter Hospital President and CEO Kevin J. Callahan defended the hospital in a letter to the editor in the Union-Leader, saying, among other things, “I am proud of the way our staff has handled this tragic situation. We stopped Mr. Kwiatkowski from working. We immediately notified authorities and we have been assisting investigators ever since.”

Now state health officials have fanned out across the region to test more than 3,000 patients.

A few thoughts:

  • Callahan is right that his staff has acted diligently to deal with the situation, but there’s no apology in his letter. He needs to apologize, because despite the larger problem of Kwiatkowski slipping through the cracks, the hospital still failed to secure its drugs from this sort of thing.
  • The hospital needs to ensure that everyone who caught Hepatitis C is taken care of for life. No hospital bills, no waiting in lines. The hospital’s lax procedures allowed this to happen, and the victims shouldn’t have to pay a cent for their care. If they are charged, they should sue Exeter’s ass off.
  • Hospitals need to rethink how they vet potential employees and, when one is fired for something like this, they should be legally obligated to call the police. I’m sure the inevitable pile of lawsuits will help bring about those requirements.

I want to have have some compassion for Kwiatkowski. Having an addictive personality as I do, I know how your sanity and common sense melt away when you start to itch and twitch at the hands of your addiction. But his actions have put someone I love at risk.

That being the case, I hope he gets the maximum penalty. I suspect I’m not the only one who feels that way.

David Kwiatkowski
David Kwiatkowski

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Renee August 15, 2012 at 6:49 pm

This is my town. These people are my neighbors. There is a huge black cloud over Exeter right now. It took us 3 days and many phone calls at the end of July to find out if my husband was on the list of people to be tested because he had out-patient surgery. The response: “No—not yet.” At one point the hospital actually forgot to test the blood they had collected and those poor people had to start all over again. Proud??? Why doesn’t he say his heart is broken like the rest of us.

Renee August 16, 2012 at 5:48 pm

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