OMAHA (CN) – Despite his questionable employment history, a staffing agency hired the roaming hospital technician who is suspected of exposing an untold number of hospital patients to hepatitis C by reusing syringes after injecting himself with drugs, a class action claims in Federal Court.
Five named plaintiffs sued Triage Staffing in a class action here, and another man sued it in a separate complaint.
David Kwiatkowski was arrested a week ago on federal charges. He is suspected of stealing syringes filled with fentanyl, a painkiller, from the cardiac catheterization lab in Exeter Hospital in New Hampshire, injecting himself, refilling the syringes with something else and replacing them.
“As of July 13, 2012, the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services has announced that 32 people, including Mr. Kwiatkowski and Mr. Fowler, associated with the Exeter Hospital cardiac catheterization laboratory have tested positive for hepatitis C,” according to Fowler’s individual complaint.
Triage Staffing is the only defendant in both cases.
Triage Staffing “employs and places health care workers known as ‘travelers,'” the class action states. “Triage hires these ‘travelers’ and places them to work at hospitals around the United States on a contract basis for short durations of time, often approximately 13 weeks. Such ‘travelers’ often provide short-term staffing assistance to hospitals that Triage contracts with.
“Upon information and belief, Triage hired one David Kwiatkowski as a traveling cardiac catheterization laboratory technician and, in March 2011, placed Mr. Kwiatkowski at Exeter Hospital in Exeter, New Hampshire.”
The class claims that Triage hired Kwiatkowski despite his questionable record:
“Upon information and belief, prior to arriving at Exeter Hospital, staff members at some of the hospitals where Mr. Kwiatkowski had previously worked reported that Mr. Kwiatkowski often told stories about himself that later proved to be false. For example, Mr. Kwiatkowski frequently claimed that:
“a. he played baseball at the University of Michigan;
“b. his fiancée had died under tragic circumstances; and
“c. he suffered from cancer.
“Upon information and belief, prior to coming to Exeter Hospital, Mr. Kwiatkowski was terminated by another hospital for falsifying information on a timesheet.
“Upon information and belief, prior to coming to Exeter Hospital, on at least two occasions, needles were found in a restroom outside the cardiac catheterization laboratory at a hospital where Mr. Kwiatkowski worked. After Mr. Kwiatkowski left that hospital, no further such incidents occurred.
“Upon information and belief, prior to coming to Exeter Hospital, Mr. Kwiatkowski was involved in a drug diversion incident when he worked as a contract employee in 2008:
“a. A hospital employee observed Mr. Kwiatkowski enter an operating room, lift his shirt, put a syringe in his pants, move his arms quickly near a medication cart, and exit the room. A subsequent review of the narcotics in the room showed that a syringe containing Fentanyl, a potent opioid narcotic with a high abuse potential, was missing and that it had been replaced by a syringe containing a different liquid (which was later found not to be Fentanyl).
“b. Mr. Kwiatkowski was acting erratically and was sweating.
“c. Mr. Kwiatkowski agreed to be searched shortly after the discovery and three empty syringes bearing Fentanyl labels were found on his person. An empty morphine sulfate syringe and a needle were later found in his locker.
“d. A drug test found Fentanyl and other opiates in Mr. Kwiatkowski’s system.
“Upon information and belief, Mr. Kwiatkowski tested positive for hepatitis C in June 2010.”
The accusations have been front-page news throughout New England this week.
The class claims that “in October 2011, after Mr. Kwiatkowski had been working in its cardiac catheterization laboratory for six months, Exeter Hospital hired Mr. Kwiatkowski as a full-time cardiac catheterization laboratory technician.
“Upon information and belief, in or about May 2012, medical staff at Exeter Hospital learned that several patients had tested positive for Hepatitis C. Further investigation revealed that all of these patients had undergone recent procedures in Exeter Hospital’s cardiac catheterization laboratory.
“Upon information and belief, in June 2012, Mr. Kwiatkowski fled the state of New Hampshire and was subsequently admitted to a psychiatric hospital in Massachusetts.
“As of July 13, 2012, the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services has announced that 32 people, including Mr. Kwiatkowski and Mr. Fowler, associated with the Exeter Hospital cardiac catheterization laboratory have tested positive for hepatitis C.
“Over 1,200 patients, associated with Exeter Hospital in New Hampshire have been tested and 32 patients have been identified who are infected with the same strain of hepatitis C as Mr. Kwiatkowski.
“On July 24, 2012, the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services announced that over 6,000 more Exeter Hospital patients will be tested for hepatitis C.”
CNN reported on Kwiatkowski’s employment history, claiming that Triage had placed him at a long list of hospitals, including Oakwood Hospital in Trenton, Mich.; Saint Francis Hospital in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; Baltimore Veterans Affairs Medical Center; the Southern Maryland Hospital in Clinton, Md.; Johns Hopkins; Maryland General Hospital in Baltimore; Hays Medical Center in Hays, Kan.; and the Houston Medical Center in Warner Robins, Ga.
Kwiatkowski faces federal charges of obtaining controlled substances by fraud and tampering with a consumer product, according to CNN and wire reports.
The class seeks compensatory and punitive damages for negligent hiring, negligent retention, negligent supervision and negligent entrustment.
They are represented by Domenic Paolini, with Paolini and Haley, which also represents the man who filed the individual complaint.