A hospital worker has been charged with causing a Hepatitis C outbreak that infected 31 patients on a cardiac ward.
David Kwiatowski, an employee at Exeter Hospital in New Hampshire, has been accused of stealing syringes filled with Fentanyl, an anesthetic more powerful than morphine, for his own use.
The 32-year-old, who was tested positive for Hepatitis C in 2010, would then refill the syringes with another liquid, such as saline, and use these for patients on the cardiac catheterization lab.
His ‘reckless disregard’ for other people caused the infectious liver disease, which can be fatal, to be easily passed on to the patients, according to an affidavit filed in the US District Court for New Hampshire.
‘The evidence gathered to date points irrefutably to Kwiatkowski as the source of the Hepatitis C outbreak at Exeter Hospital,’ US attorney John P Kacavas said in a press release.
‘With his arrest, we have eliminated the “serial infector” posed to public and health safety.’
Staff at Exeter Hospital discovered the outbreak in May, prompting an investigation involving several local, state and federal government agencies, including the FBI.
According to court documents, investigators believe Kwiatkowski grabbed the loaded syringes when he brought lead aprons into the procedure room, an area that he did not need to enter.
They suspect Kwiatkowski then replaced the Fentanyl syringes with saline syringes that were tainted with his strain of Hepatitis C.
The court documents also reveal that other staff members had noticed Kwiatowski’s erratic behavior and suspected him of abusing controlled substances.
They said he would often sweat through his scrubs and made frequent trips to the bathroom.
One employee claims she saw “fresh track marks” when she tried to draw his blood and another remembered seeing Kwiatkowski with “a red face, red eyes and white foam around his mouth” during a shift at the lab.
The accused hospital worker also had a tendency to lie, his co-workers told investigators.
Kwiatowski told his colleagues that he played baseball in college and that his one-time fiancée died “under tragic circumstances,” neither of which were true.
He also once excused bloodshot eyes by saying he was crying all night about a dead aunt who never existed.
When his roommate inquired about the needles in his laundry, Kwiatkowski told her he had cancer and was being treated at Portsmouth Regional hospital.
No evidence has been found to support this.
Kwiatkowski, who does not yet have a lawyer, was arrested yesterday morning in Massachusetts, where he was being treated at a hospital.
He has been charged with acquiring a controlled substance by fraud and tampering with a consumer product with ‘reckless disregard’ for the risk of others.
If found guilty, he faces up to 24 years in prison and each offense could result in a fine of $250,000.