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Exeter Hospital on 'Termination Track,' Says State Official

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, October 23, 2012

The 100-bed New Hampshire hospital where an employee dubbed the "serial infector" for allegedly infecting 32 patients with hepatitis C faces new federal challenges to its reputation with the release of a third investigative report, this one threatening its ability to receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement.

"They (Exeter) are on a termination track," says John Martin, Manager of the Bureau of Licensing and Certification for the state of New Hampshire, whose team helped with the federal investigation. The findings resulting from the hospital's third inspection means that "some point between now and Dec. 28 we'll have to go back in and verify that they're in full compliance."

Martin noted that rarely does the federal government follow through with threats to terminate a hospital's ability to receive Medicare or Medicaid payments, because providers generally are able to correct all deficiencies to get back in compliance. "That's certainly what we hope will happen here," Martin says.

The latest report, based on a survey Sept. 17-18, said Exeter does not meet four conditions of participation. The conditions pertain to the hospital's governing body, patients' rights, its quality assessment and performance improvement program and infection control.

All three investigations stem from the finding this spring that a hepatitis C-infected radiology or scrub tech, who worked in Exeter's catheterization lab, had allegedly injected syringes containing the drug fentanyl intended for patients, a practice called drug diversion.

After injecting, he returned the now-contaminated syringes so they could be used as planned for particular patients, 32 of whom were subsequently infected with the same viral strain the lab tech. Some of them became acutely ill.

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