July 19. 2012 10:44PM

Victims' attorneys say Exeter Hospital shows 'shocking level of negligence and lack of due diligence'

Union Leader Correspondent

EXETER – Two attorneys representing 10 patients exposed to the hepatitis C virus allegedly spread by a former Exeter Hospital worker say the hospital showed a “shocking level of negligence and lack of due diligence.”

In a statement issued Thursday night, attorneys Alfred T. Catalfo III of Dover and Paul M. Monzione of Wolfeboro praised authorities for bringing charges against David Kwiatkowski, a traveling medical technician and former Exeter Hospital employee, but criticized the hospital for failing to stop him before investigators say he infected 30 hospital patients with the potentially deadly liver-attacking virus by using syringes with the powerful drug Fentanyl on himself and then returning the dirty syringes to be used on unsuspecting patients.

“According to the arrest affidavit, Kwiatkowski exhibited suspicious behavior, including attending procedures when he wasn't scheduled to work, sweating profusely and leaving the lab during procedures,” Catalfo said. “The U.S. attorney stated that there were times when Kwiatkowski appeared unfit to provide medical care, and witnesses said he appeared to be 'on something' and had 'track marks on his arms.' Those are red flags and I'm astounded by Exeter Hospital's level of negligence and lack of due diligence.”

The attorneys filed a lawsuit last week on behalf of a man who was exposed in the hospital's cardiac catheterization lab, but more suits are expected. At least 17 suits have already been filed in Rockingham County.

Monzione said many patients underwent different procedures and some suffered exposure and tested positive while others are still wondering if they could be infected. He recalled one client who accidentally cut himself while cooking at a Fourth of July barbecue and tossed the food to be safe.

“These victims are devastated and we hope that Exeter Hospital will be forthright in dealing with them,” Monzione said, adding, “Our clients are deeply appreciative of the diligent work of the federal authorities who have prevented others from suffering as they have.”

In a statement, the hospital called the criminal charges a “critical milestone in this incredibly difficult and painful situation.”

The hospital added, “The events of the past several months have demonstrated that no healthcare organization can rest in its
pursuit of the highest possible quality and safety for its patients. Even the best systems and nationally accepted protocols can be corrupted by actions driven by illegal intent.”

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Jason Schreiber may be reached at jschreiber@newstote.com.