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September 09. 2012 10:27PM

Portsmouth lawyer: Client caught hepatitis C from worker before Exeter case

A Portsmouth attorney says he is representing a client who claims he was infected by the hospital worker, currently jailed on charges he allegedly infected patients with hepatitis C, two years earlier than federal prosecutors have alleged.

Portsmouth attorney Michael Rainboth said last night that a Baltimore veteran is his newest client, and that the man claims he was infected with hepatitis C by traveling medical technician David Kwiatkowski in Maryland in 2008 — a full two years prior to when prosecutors have said Kwiatkowski tested positive for the potentially fatal liver disease in 2010.

“It opens the door to potentially new victims,” said Rainboth, who now represents five patients who claim to have been infected by Kwiatkowski. “We are potentially looking at another two years of patients at hospitals.”

Rainboth’s latest client, Linwood Nelson, a 65-year-old Vietnam veteran from Baltimore, Md., contacted the Portsmouth attorney after seeing his name in several news stories online about the hepatitis C investigation.

“He said he was infected by Kwiatkowski while a patient at the Baltimore VA Medical Center,” said Rainboth last night. “He said he was contacted by the hospital, and was asked to come in and give blood. He said the blood was tested, and that the hospital contacted him again and told him that he tested positive for hepatitis C, and that he matched the strain that Kwiatkowski tested positive for.”

Rainboth said his client was given a federal tort claim to fill out.

“He says the hospital told him they wanted to take full responsibility,” said Rainboth. “He has some questions about the form, and when he asked about them it was suggested that he get a lawyer, and that’s when he contacted me.”

According to Rainboth, hospital records show Kwiatkowski worked at the Baltimore VA Medical Center as a diagnostic radiologic technologist from May 22, 2008, to Nov. 7, 2008. Hospital administrators have stated Kwiatkowski had contact with 168 patients, and not all of those patients have been tested.

Kwiatkowski, 33, is facing federal charges after he was accused of infecting at least 32 former Exeter Hospital patients with hepatitis C while he was working there between April 2011 and May 2012.

Kwiatkowski is accused of injecting himself with syringes filled with the painkiller fentanyl intended for patients, refilling them with saline and other substances, then placing them back on the tray for use on patients. Kwiatkowski also tested positive for that strain of hepatitis C.

Three patients from a Kansas hospital where Kwiatkowski worked in 2010 also tested positive for a strain of hepatitis C “closely related” to the cluster in Exeter, according to Kansas officials.

New Hampshire health officials held public testing clinics this month in hopes of testing as many as 3,300 former Exeter patients who were treated in the hospital’s main operating rooms and intensive care unit between April 1, 2011, and May 25, 2012.

Rainboth says he believes this latest client shows there could be far more patients out there.

“It’s quite possible,” said Rainboth. “He worked for hospitals in Maryland. Johns Hopkins has announced they will begin testing over 1,000 patients. The chance exists there could be more.”

Rainboth and his co-counsel, attorney Christopher Mitchell (based in Washington, D.C.), are planning to file a federal tort claim against the federally-owned and operated VA Medical Center in Baltimore.

pfeely@unionleader.com


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