Tech at Center of Hep C Outbreak Pleads Guilty

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David Kwiatkowski, a 34-year-old radiology technician that infected at least 45 people with hepatitis C, has plead guilty in federal court to tampering with a consumer product and obtaining a controlled substance at Exeter Hospital in New Hampshire.

He could face between 30 and 40 years in jail. Prosecuting attorney John Kacavas said at a news conference following the plea that prosecutors will argue for the maximum 40 years when he is sentenced in December.

Kacavas also said that now that the top priority of having Kwiatkowski punished has been accomplished, the investigation is continuing and that they "are looking elsewhere.”

The Kwiatkowski case exposed a myriad of problems in how health care workers are certified and licensed to practice. In his plea, Kwiatkowski admitted that addiction to Fentanyl led him to steal needles loaded with the narcotic from cardiac catheterization labs in which he worked. He then replaced the stolen needles with his used dirty needles filled with saline to hide the theft.

Several times, he was caught in suspicious circumstances and fired. However, by moving between states and different employers, he continued to get jobs where he could steal Fentanyl needles and replace them with dirty needles.

Kwiatkowski was certified by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) and never lost that credential even as he traveled over three states and cycled through multiple temporary and permanent tech jobs that gave him access to narcotics. A group of patients infected by Kwiatkowski have brought suit against the ARRT for not having revoked Kwiatkowski’s credentials when problems first appeared.

However, in a statement, the ARRT said that its hands were essentially tied because while it had allegations of problems with his work, it had no first-hand evidence that he had done anything wrong.

“To hold a professional certifying organization like ARRT liable for the actions of an individual it does not employ would represent a significant shift in the legal landscape governing ARRT and similar entities in health care as well as other professional fields,” the statement read.