CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Patients at a New Hampshire hospital who were infected with hepatitis C by a traveling medical technician with a drug problem are pleased with his guilty plea but are still pushing to hold others accountable.
David Kwiatkowski, 34, pleaded guilty last week to 16 federal drug charges under an agreement that calls for him to spend 30 to 40 years in prison. He admitted stealing painkiller syringes from hospitals where he worked and replacing them with saline-filled syringes tainted with his blood.
Before he was hired at Exeter Hospital in New Hampshire in 2011, Kwiatkowski worked as a cardiac technologist in 18 hospitals in seven states, moving from job to job despite being fired at least four times over allegations of drug use and theft.
"Everyone's been pointing at Kwiatkowski, and to some extent they should, but what Exeter Hospital is trying to do is hide behind Kwiatkowski and point the finger at him," said attorney Mark Abramson, who represents 12 patients suing the hospital and others. "That does not absolve them of their responsibility, because no matter how bad of a jerk Kwiatkowski is, the truth of the matter is, it never should've gotten to this point."
Forty-six people in four states have been diagnosed with the same strain of hepatitis C Kwiatkowski carries. Thirty-two patients were infected in New Hampshire, seven in Maryland, six in Kansas and one in Pennsylvania. Kwiatkowski also worked in Michigan, New York, Arizona and Georgia.
Most of the New Hampshire patients are suing Exeter, the national accreditation organization for radiological technicians and two of the staffing agencies that employed Kwiatkowski. Six cases have been settled in Rockingham County Superior Court, and the remaining 23 are tentatively set to go to trial starting in November 2014, according to the hospital's lawyer, William Dailey.
"The civil litigation is moving along as we anticipated, and we're hopeful that more matters can be resolved as time passes," he said.
The hospital has strongly denied allegations that it ignored employee concerns about Kwiatkowski's alleged drug use, saying he always offered plausible explanations for his appearance and behavior.