Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Arrest of Med Tech with Hepititis C shows flaws in health care system in Pittsburgh

In 2008, radiology technician David Kwiatkowski was a few weeks into a temporary job at the UPMC Presbyterian when a co-worker accused him of lifting a syringe containing an addictive painkiller from an operating room and sticking it down his pants.  A drug test showed that he had fentanyl and other opiates in his system and more syringes were found in his pockets and locker.

It is reported that once he took the syringe of fentanyl off the tray, he replaced it with a dirty syringe filled with dummy fluid.  Not only would a patient have gone without important pain meds, a dirty needle could spread diseases including Hepatitis C and AIDS.

What did UPMC do after discovering a technician with drugs in his system and needles in his pockets?  Nothing.  No one in Pittsburgh called the police.  Kwiatkowski was allowed to leave work without hassle. Neither the hospital nor the medical staffing agency that placed him in the job informed the national accreditation organization for radiological technicians.

This lack of action allowed him to move on to another job in Baltimore.  From there he was employed at 10 hospitals in 4 years.  It was not until he moved to a position in New Hampshire that he was finally arrested. 

Sadly Kwiatkowski was not arrested until he infected at least 31 Exeter Hospital patients with hepatitis C by stealing fentanyl syringes and replacing them with dirty ones tainted with his blood.  The same act that a co-worker discovered him doing at UPMC Presby four year earlier.

Now, thousands of hospital patients who may have crossed paths with Kwiatkowski in eight states including Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York and Pennsylvania may have Hepatitis C. 

As the Kwiatkowski case demonstrates, medical technicians aren't as closely regulated as doctors or nurses, and there is no nationwide database of misconduct or disciplinary actions against them.

UPMC claims that they didn't alert the national credentialing organization because they felt that was the responsibility of Maxim Staffing Solutions, the agency that had placed him.

Things finally began to unravel for Kwiatkowski in New Hampshire, where a temporary stint at Exeter Hospital starting in April 2011 turned into a permanent job in a cardiac catheterization lab. Several of his co-workers reported bizarre behavior and he was arrested for leaving the scene of a car accident.

In May, three doctors simultaneously reported that patients recently treated in the catheterization lab had tested positive for hepatitis C. Within days, Kwiatkowski was also identified as having hepatitis C, and he was suspended as an investigation by the state was started.

The hepatitis C virus matching the one Kwiatkowski carried was found in 31 patients.  It is not clear when and where he contracted Hepatitis C but prosecutors say they have evidence that he tested positive as far back as 2010. Michigan officials said he tested negative in 2006.

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