Legal fight lingers years after medical technician’s arrest
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The legal fight over financial accountability for a traveling medical technician who infected patients with hepatitis C has lasted significantly longer than any of his job placements.
The technician, David Kwiatkowski, is serving 39 years in prison for stealing painkillers and replacing them with saline-filled syringes tainted with his blood. Despite being fired numerous times over drug allegations, he had worked as a cardiac technologist in 18 hospitals in seven states before being hired in New Hampshire in 2011. After his arrest in 2012, 46 people in four states were diagnosed with the same strain of the hepatitis C virus he carries, including one who died in Kansas.
His last employer, Exeter Hospital, is suing the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists and Triage Staffing, an employment agency that once employed him, in hopes of recouping some of the settlement money it has paid to dozens of infected patients and nearly 200 who were not infected but claimed some harm. After several delays, the case is set to go to trial in July.
In the latest development, the registry organization was recently granted permission to question Kwiatkowski’s medical and mental health care providers. It argued it’s necessary to verify Kwiatkowski’s actions and has a “direct bearing on issues of proportional fault in connection with this matter and must be produced in the interest of justice.” The accreditation organization noted Kwiatkowski has agreed to release his medical records to the court in some of the other civil cases and freely discussed his medical and mental health history during a deposition in late 2015 and early 2016.
According to excerpts of that deposition, Kwiatkowski learned he had hepatitis C in Kansas in 2010. He also described being hospitalized for pancreatitis at Hayes Medical Center shortly after being fired for falsifying timesheets and nearly ending up in the same cardiac catheterization lab where he had worked.
“They were going to do a heart cath on me. I refused it for obvious reasons,” he said. “I refused it because I didn’t want to be in a heart cath where I worked and got fired from. I didn’t think that was going to be a good situation.”
Hepatitis C is a viral infection that attacks the liver. For most people, it turns into a chronic disease.
A month after he learned he had hepatitis C, Linda Ficken, of Andover, Kansas, contracted hepatitis C at Hayes. She said is now free of the virus but never regained her stamina. She settled lawsuits against AART, a staffing agency and the hospital, but still has a case pending against UMPC Presbyterian in Pittsburgh, where Kwiatkowski was fired in 2008 after a worker saw him steal a syringe from an operating room and he tested positive for Fentanyl.
“I don’t blame him nearly as much as I blame these entities he worked for,” Ficken, 75, said. “They had a chance to help him and to keep him going from job to job. Had they done their job, he wouldn’t have been out here.”