Hospital Wants Help on Hep-C Settlements

     EXETER, N.H. (CN) — The last hospital to employ the drug addict responsible for infecting dozens with hepatitis C filed a federal complaint against its staffing agent.
     Claims have been swirling through courts across the country for years over the hepatitis outbreak unleashed by former radiology technician David Kwiatkowski, whom a federal judge sentenced in 2013 to 39 years behind bars.
     An opioid addict registered to work as a traveling cardiac catheterization technician, Kwiatkowski got his fix by stealing syringes at work, filled with powerful painkillers like fentanyl. After injecting himself with the narcotics, contaminating the needle with his own hepatitis-infected blood, Kwiatkowski refilled the used syringes with saline and put them back into hospital supply rooms.
     This routine played out at 19 hospitals in eight states that employed Kwiatkowski from 2003 to 2012, when he was finally caught, fired and arrested, according to a new complaint by Kwiatkowski’s last employer, Exeter Hospital.
     Thousands others across the country had to be tested, and Exeter Hospital says Kwiatkowski infected at least 32 of its patients with his strain of hep-C.
     Last year, the hospital reached confidential settlements with 188 patients who all tested negative for hepatitis but faced emotional distress from the testing process itself.
     The hospital’s May 6 complaint seeks to hold American HealthCare Services Association liable for statutory contribution.
     Michigan-based “AHSA holds itself out as the largest hospital vendor management association in the United States,” the complaint states.
     Exeter Hospital says Kwiatkowski came to work for its cardiac catheterization lab via AHSA’s staffing contract with a company called Triage.
     “In total disregard of its duty, AHSA failed to properly monitor the performance and compliance of Triage,” the complaint states.
     Triage is not a party to the complaint.
     “The aforesaid breaches by Triage resulted in Kwiatkowski being placed at Exeter Hospital, notwithstanding the fact that he was addicted to opioids; was infected with hepatitis-C; and had resigned from or been terminated from at least four prior hospital positions as a direct result of his drug-related misconduct,” the complaint states.
     Exeter Hospital says AHSA had a duty “to fully investigate or report to the appropriate authorities Kwiatkowski’s illegal drug diversion and use.”
     By its own standards, AHSA “should have known” the traveling cardiac catheterization technician was unfit for employment, according to the complaint.
     Exeter Hospital contends that the settlements are “disproportionate to [its] actual responsibility” for the outbreak.
     In addition to studying the proportionate fault of the AHSA, the hospital also wants attorneys’ fees.
     It is represented by Robert Dewhirst with Devine Millimet & Branch in Manchester. Neither Devine Millimet nor ASHA returned requests for comment.

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