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Flaws in the System

David Kwiatkowski a traveling medical technician is accused of contaminating possibly dozens of patients with the Hepatitis C virus. This could have easily been avoided had there been a national database for all healthcare workers. This story begins as 33 year old traveling Radiology technician began a temporary job at the University of Pittsburg Medical Center- Presbyterian where another worker accused him of stealing syringes filled with Fentanyl. This is a narcotic that is prescribed for moderate to severe pain, which is approximately 100 times stronger than morphine. Kwiatkowski’s work locker was searched; it had empty syringes in it and when drug tested, he came up positive for the drug. He was discharged of his duties, nothing was documented with the agency that placed him, and no police report was made on the incident.

Kwiatkowski went on to work for 10 separate hospitals in 8 states, including Georgia, Kansas, Michigan, and New York, where he had similar incidences; and again each hospital did not report his unusual behavior. In an Arizona Hospital he was found by a coworker passed out in a bathroom stall with a syringe in the toilet next to him; but by the time the police arrived, he had flushed the syringe down the drain. Again, nothing was reported by the hospital or the police.

His reign of terror ended, however, when he took a job in New Hampshire’s Exeter Hospital, where Kwiatkowski worked in the cardiac catheterization lab. Coworkers of Kwiatkowski often reported that he was acting unusually, sweating, and would often leave procedure rooms to vomit. In May, three separate doctors confirmed 32 patients had tested positive for the same Hepatitis strain and they all had similar procedures at the hospital. All of the evidence pointed to Kwiatkowski, and a blood test confirmed that he also had the same strain of Hepatitis C. He had been injecting himself with the Fentanyl, and refilling the syringes with similar looking fluid that was then used on unknowing patients. Potentially contaminating thousands of people with a virus that attacks the patient’s liver, and could cause cancer or death, there is presently no cure for this disease.

Exeter Hospital is no longer cooperating with the ongoing investigation of the Hepatitis outbreak being investigated by the Department of Human Health Services and the Attorney General’s Office. The Hospital states that due to privacy, patients’ records should not be turned over to authorities.

As of August 2012, Kwiatkowski’s license in New York is active and in good standings according to a state website.

Student Researcher: Lori Nielsen, Indian River State College Faculty Evaluator: Elliot D. Cohen, Ph.D. Indian River State College Source:

DAVID B. CARUSO and HOLLY RAMER, Hepatitis C Outbreak: Arrest Of Medical Technician David Kwiatkowski Shows Flaws In System, Huffington Post, 08/14/12

ETHICS ELERT

A Nationwide database should be used to protect the public from such unethical behavior. Understandably, that Kwiatkowski is an addict, but his use has put dozens of people at risk. We need to have a registry for all healthcare workers so that hospitals know who they are hiring. Had the job placement company known that he was a drug user, then this could have been stopped.

Lawyers are held accountable for their actions by the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct. This is a legally binding code of professional ethics set by ABA. The mission is to serve other members and the public by having a set of national standards. You can’t even drive a car in this country without having national rules, and if you can’t follow the rules of the road you get tickets. Too many tickets and you lose your license, and all of those records go from state to state. Had Kwiatkowski been a doctor, he would have lost his medical license immediately. There are so many other deterrents like background checks and fingerprinting, not to mention checking a person’s references on the application. There is no reason why this incident should have gone on for so long.

The application process for healthcare workers should include a drug test, a background check and fingerprints. A network should be set up that is regulated by a national organization making sure that traveling and full time workers are licensed and in good standing. Our hospitals and our families deserve the best, and with the healthcare crisis we are in, standards need to be met to protect ourselves.

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