Maryland Hospital Patients Possibly Affected by Radiology Technician Suspected in Hepatitis C Outbreak

HCV_structure.pngThe arrest of a radiologic technician in New Hampshire on charges that he allegedly infected at least thirty-one hospital patients with hepatitis C, has led to concerns about similar outbreaks in at least seven other states where he worked in recent years, including Maryland. The technician also has a history of disciplinary actions at hospitals in several states for alleged drug use and theft of medications. The case has led to some discussion about standards and regulations for radiologic technicians and the impact they may have on patient safety.

Police arrested 33 year-old David Kwiatkowski in late July on suspicion of stealing anesthetics from Exeter Hospital in New Hampshire. Furthermore, he allegedly contaminated syringes, which were subsequently used on patients, with the hepatitis C virus. Thirty-one patients at that hospital tested positive for the same strain of the virus as Kwiatkowski. New Hampshire officials have recommended that around 4,700 people in the state undergo testing for hepatitis C. As alleged details of his history have become public, it has raised concerns in multiple states about not only theft of medications, but possible exposure of patients to the disease.

From May 2008 to March 2010, Kwiatkowski reportedly worked at four different hospitals in Maryland. According to the Associated Press, those hospitals are contacting hundreds of former patients each regarding the matter, with as many as 1,750 people possibly affected. Two of the hospitals told the AP that they did not fire Kwiatkowski, nor did his behavior during his employment there raise “red flags.” Hospitals in other states have different reports.

The AP reports that Kwiatkowski was fired from a Pittsburgh hospital after syringes of painkillers were found on his person and in his locker. He had allegedly replaced at least one fentanyl syringe with a syringe filled with a “dummy fluid,” which could then injure a patient. No one reported the matter to the police or to the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT), the national organization that accredits radiology technicians. He went from Pittsburgh to a hospital in Baltimore. In addition to reports from Maryland, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania, authorities have confirmed his employment over the past several years at hospitals in Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Michigan, and New York. Health officials are still investigating any impact he may have had in those states.

The ARRT reportedly suspended Kwiatkowski on July 24 after his arrest in New Hampshire. In a statement, the organization said that this was the first time it had sufficient evidence to revoke Kwiatkowski’s credentials. In prior matters, including the incident in Pittsburgh and one in Arizona in which he lost his job, ARRT noted that no criminal charges were ever filed. ARRT has no jurisdiction over state licenses, and no national database of disciplinary history exists for radiologic technicians. In Maryland, the Board of Physicians licenses radiologic technicians, known under state law as nuclear medicine technologists.

No specific information is currently available as to the impact of this case on Maryland hospital patients. Hospitals have a duty to provide a safe and professional environment for their patients, which includes a duty to supervise and manage employees who have access to pharmaceutical drugs. The Maryland attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen can assist victims of pharmacy errors, who were injured by drugs prescribed, dispensed, or administered incorrectly. Contact us today online, or call (800) 654-1949 for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your case.

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Pharmaceutical Company Pleads Guilty to Health Care Fraud, Agrees to Pay Record $3 Billion Penalty, Pharmacy Error Injury Lawyer Blog, July 19, 2012
State Revokes Three Professionals’ Licenses to Prescribe Medication, Pharmacy Error Injury Lawyer Blog, December 20, 2011
Photo credit: ‘HCV structure’ by GrahamColm at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], from Wikimedia Commons.

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