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Group: We had no evidence to punish man now accused in hepatitis C case

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 8:55 AM EDT, Thu August 2, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • David Kwiatkowski was fired from an Arizona hospital for allegedly using drugs
  • He's arrested two years later, accuse of infecting dozens with hepatitis C in New Hampshire
  • American Registry of Radiologic Technologists notes a lack of charges in the Arizona case
  • The group says it "did not have first-hand evidence supporting action against him" in 2010

(CNN) -- A radiologic technologists' association didn't punish David Kwiatkowski -- later accused of infecting dozens with hepatitis C -- when he was fired in 2010 from an Arizona hospital because it "did not have first-hand evidence" against him to warrant such a move, the group said Monday.

The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists said it suspended Kwiatkowski on July 24 after he was charged in federal court with obtaining controlled substances by fraud and tampering with a consumer product, namely a hospital syringe, in New Hampshire, according to an affidavit. He is suspected of stealing fentanyl, a powerful narcotic frequently used in hospitals, the affidavit said.

Authorities accuse him of stealing drugs from Exeter Hospital, and it's believed he infected 30 people in New Hampshire with hepatitis C through infected syringes.

"The filing of federal criminal charges in New Hampshire was the first information ARRT received about Mr. Kwiatkowski that met the standard of evidence enabling the organization to remove his ARRT credential," the registry said in a statement.

Did registry know accused man was earlier fired?

It was not the first time Kwiatkowski had run into trouble.

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Two years earlier, he was working at Arizona Heart Hospital when a fellow employee found him passed out in the men's bathroom, according to documents obtained by CNN.

"I looked in the toilet and spotted a 5 cc syringe and a needle floating in the water," the employee said in a statement submitted to the Arizona Radiation Regulatory Agency. "The label was a blue fentanyl label. ... He then said, 'S*** ... I am going to jail.'"

Kwiatkowski flushed the syringe and needle down the toilet, according to the employee.

He was immediately fired, according to a hospital spokeswoman, and then relinquished his license as a radiologic technologist.

"I don't have the resources nor money to fight the accusations," Kwiatkowski wrote at the time.

The agency that placed Kwiatkowski in the Arizona job reported the incident to the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, according to a spokeswoman for the agency, Springboard, Inc.

But the Registry of Radiologic Technologists pointed out that police investigated the case but did not file any criminal charges.

The group added, "He passed a drug screen the following day and, moreover, there was no indication at the time of Mr. Kwiatkowski being infected with hepatitis C.

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"ARRT, which does not have subpoena power or state licensing jurisdiction, did not have first-hand evidence supporting action against him in connection with the incident in Arizona."

The director of the Arizona Radiation Regulatory Agency said last week that officials stopped their investigation when Kwiatkowski moved out of state. Aubrey Godwin said he's not sure whether his group reported the 2010 incident to the national registry.

"We had no jurisdiction," said Godwin, the regulator agency's chief. "If drugs or alcohol were involved, we would want to get blood tests done, but he was out of state, so it was sort of hard to implement."

A few weeks after losing his job in Arizona, Kwiatkowski was working at Temple University Hospital in Pennsylvania. He then went on to work in Kansas and Georgia before working in New Hampshire.

Exeter Hospital, in New Hampshire, said it consulted the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists before hiring Kwiatkowski, and he held the required certification for his cardiovascular tech position.

Hepatitis C is considered to be among the most serious of hepatitis viruses. It is typically asymptomatic, going undetected until liver damage shows up, according to the Mayo Clinic.

New Hampshire's health department is asking everyone who was a patient in Exeter's operating rooms and the intensive care unit between April 1, 2011, and May 25 of this year be tested.

Those are two areas that Kwiatkowski visited during his "routine duties to transport patients," an Exeter Hospital statement said. But it added he "was not involved with procedures or patient care."

Exeter, in a statement, said it conducted a background check and took other steps before hiring Kwiatkowski full time.

U.S. Attorney John P. Kacavas said his office interviewed employees at Exeter who said they had seen Kwiatkowski acting strangely, one time sweating profusely and with bloodshot eyes.

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"One of them described him as unfit to provide medical care and his supervisor sent him home," Kacavas said. "He provided a plausible explanation for his condition, which was that he had been crying his eyes out because his aunt had died and he was an emotional wreck."

According to state, county and hospital officials, he worked as a radiology technician and medical technician in cardiac catheterization labs in the following locations:

-- Oakwood Annapolis Hospital in Wayne, Michigan, January to September 2007;

-- Saint Francis Hospital, Poughkeepsie, New York, November 2007 to February 2008;

-- UPMC Presbyterian, Pittsburgh, March 2008 to May 2008;

-- Baltimore Veterans Affairs Medical Center, May 2008 to November 2008;

-- Southern Maryland Hospital, Clinton, Maryland, December 2008 to February 2009;

-- Maryvale Hospital, Phoenix, March to June 2009;

-- Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, July 2009 to January 2010;

-- Maryland General Hospital, Baltimore, January 2010 to March 2010;

-- Arizona Heart Hospital, Phoenix, March 2010 to April 2010;

-- Temple University Hospital, Philadelphia, April 2010;

-- Hays Medical Center, Hays, Kansas, May 2010 to September 2010;

-- Houston Medical Center, Warner Robins, Georgia, October 2010 to March 2011;

-- Exeter Hospital, Exeter, New Hampshire, April 2011 to July 2012.

Institutions say they are calling former patients and offering free testing, and that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is helping state health officers and hospitals tackle the problem.

Kwiatkowski was arrested earlier this month after police found him in a Massachusetts hotel room "in an intoxicated state" and took him to a hospital, the affidavit states. He is now being held in a Strafford County, New Hampshire, jail. He could face more than 20 years in prison if convicted.

Kwiatkowski appeared in New Hampshire federal court last Tuesday and waived his right to a detention hearing. Kacavas said it is possible more charges could be filed.

Bjorn Lange, a public defender representing Kwiatkowski, told CNN last Friday that he would have no comment on the case.

Former hospital worker accused of transmitting hepatitis

CNN's Elizabeth Cohen, Jennifer Bixler, John Bonifield, William Hudson and Joe Sterling contributed to this report.

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