CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — After spending a year investigating a hepatitis C outbreak at Exeter Hospital, New Hampshire's public health department is working with a Nebraska-based hepatitis advocacy group to share its recommendations.
Chris Adamski of New Hampshire's Department of Health and Human Services said Monday that her office is committed to working with all partners to promote better prevention and detection of drug diversion. Those partners include the Fremont, Neb.-based Hepatitis Outbreaks National Organization for Reform, or HONOReform, as well as the Maryland-based National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators.
Steve Langan, director of HONOReform, said the three groups plan to press federal health officials for changes, including increased regulation of medical technicians such as David Kwiatkowski, who pleaded guilty in August to stealing painkiller syringes from Exeter Hospital and replacing them with saline, tainted with his blood.
Before Exeter Hospital hired him in 2011, Kwiatkowski was 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. Forty-six people in four states — Kansas, Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Hampshire — have been diagnosed with the same strain of hepatitis C he carries.
Langan's group was founded by one of the 99 cancer patients who were infected with hepatitis C at a Fremont clinic in 2002. A doctor and nurse lost their licenses in that case, which involved syringes and a saline bag that had been used on an infected patient being reused on other patients.
Langan was in New Hampshire on Monday at the annual meeting of the New Hampshire Hospital Association, which created a committee last year to bring together hospitals, pharmacists, lawmakers and others to explore previous drug diversion incidents and ways to address the problem. The matter is complicated, he said, but a good starting point would be to create a national database for medical technicians.
“Think about it from the point of view of the staffing agencies that repeatedly hired David Kwiatkowski,” he said. “They may have seen red flags, but without having any national or even state-level database, they're on the line, too.”