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July 03. 2012 10:26PM

Four Exeter patients file suit against hospital

Former Exeter Hospital patients from Raymond, Kingston, Exeter and Newmarket filed lawsuits blaming the hospital for infecting them with the potentially deadly hepatitis C virus, their attorney said Tuesday.

The suits, filed by three married patients and their spouses and a fourth unmarried patient, accuse the hospital of negligence, reckless conduct and intentional infliction of emotional distress. They also blame the hospital for violating the state Consumer Protection Act and, in the case of married patients, loss of consortium with their spouses. All seek a jury trial.

Manchester attorney Mark A. Abramson filed the suits in Rockingham County Superior Court on behalf of his clients. They are: Steven Barnes, 46, a married father from Newmarket; Michael Clavette, 52, a married father from Raymond; Howard Colwell, 82, a married father from Exeter; and Robert Hayes, a 67-year-old father.

State health officials said 26 patients and one hospital employee so far tested positive for the same strain of the blood-borne virus linked to the hospital’s cardiac catheterization laboratory and recovery room.

More than 1,213 patients may have been exposed to the virus while being treated at the laboratory or recovery between Oct. 1, 2010, and May 25.

State health officials on Monday said they need to test about 110 more patients and are awaiting results for some 60 more former patients as they work to determine the scope of the outbreak and pinpoint its cause.

They say a drug-addicted employee who used syringes to inject painkillers or other drugs intended for patients appears to be the likely cause. They would not say if the infected hospital employee is the source of the outbreak.

Federal and state law enforcement agencies are also conducting parallel criminal and civil investigations to determine what caused the infections.

kmarchocki@unionleader.com


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