New Hampshire Hepatitis C Worker Sentenced
The sordid tale of serial hospital infector David Kwiatkowski finally came to a close last week. Kwiatkowski was sentenced to 39 years in prison after infecting 45 patients around the country with Hepatitis C.
The story has been told over and over. Kwiatkowski was a traveling radiology tech and a drug addict who injected himself with syringes filled with painkillers intended for patients. To avoid being caught, he'd refill the tainted syringes with saline. That's how vulnerable patients were infected with the incurable disease.
Now Kwiatkowski is behind bars, but the pain for his victims will remain forever.
The ordeal was highly publicized and brought a lot of attention to how hospital employees and contract workers are screened. In the wake of Kwiatkowski's scheme being uncovered at New Hampshire's Exeter Hospital, the Granite State is starting to crack down on drug using employees. After issuing zero suspensions in 2011, both the New Hampshire Board of Nursing and Board of Pharmacy increased their amounts of emergency suspensions over the last two years.
Taking down drug-abusing employees has been a slower process in other states. A special report on nurses in Minnesota showed that since 2010, one hundred and twelve nurses who were caught stealing narcotics, forging prescriptions, or working under the influence were allowed to keep their licenses to practice medicine.
And nurses aren't the only ones abusing substances. A study recently released shows that doctors in certain specialties also suffer from substance abuse, with some of those instances resulting in fatalities.
While an end-all solution would be nice, New Hampshire is taking a step in the right direction by ramping up its use of emergency suspensions.