Former Exeter Hospital Radiologic Tech Sentenced to 39 Years

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David Kwiatkowski, a fentanyl-addicted radiology technician who had worked at Exeter Hospital in New Hampshire, had already pleaded guilty to infecting at least 46 patients with hepatitis C in exchange for limiting his sentence to no more than 40 years

US District Court judge Joseph Laplante noted at the sentencing yesterday that while Kwiatkowski deserved the maximum sentence allowed by the plea deal, he shaved a year off the amount as “a token” to remind Kwiatkowski that “people do have the capacity for mercy and compassion,” reported Boston.com.

At the sentencing, Kwiatkowsi listened to 20 of his victims and their families, including Connie Murphy McNeal, the daughter of a Kansas patient who died of complications related to her hepatitis C infection.

The Kwiatkowski case highlighted the difficulty of fairly identifying possibly dangerous health care workers and stopping that person from working in medicine. Kwiatkowski worked in nearly 20 hospitals in eight states before he was finally arrested for infecting patients at Exeter Hospital in Exeter, N.H.

Although he had been fired multiple times from hospitals and staffing companies, few took significant steps to prevent him from being re-hired somewhere else. The Baltimore Sun reported in March that one medical staffing company owned by Columbia-based Maxim Healthcare Services even went so far as to falsify an email after the case broke to make it appear it had informed state officials about Kwiatkowski when it fired him. In reality, it had not.

Kwiatkowski also never lost his American Registry of Radiologic Technologist (ARRT) certification. ARRT was subsequently added to a class action suit by patients against Exeter Hospital and was sharply criticized by Rockingham County Superior Court Judge Kenneth McHugh for not having recognized that Kwiatkowski was a risk and revoked his credentials once he was fired by Arizona Heart Hospital in 2010 for stealing fentanyl.

“Had ARRT conducted even the simplest of investigations of the Arizona incident,” Judge McHugh wrote, “it would have been aware of specifically how Kwiatkowski could have and in fact did infect Jane B. Doe.”

ARRT maintained that it had in fact conducted a reasonable investigation in this case, given the limits of its legal authority and administrative scope. The suit was settled out of court.