N.H. hospital urges its employees to be testede for hep-C
By RANDY GONZALES
Exeter Hospital in New Hampshire, where traveling medical technician David Kwiatkowski is accused of infecting at least 32 patients with hepatitis C, now is notifying approximately 500 employees and affected clinicians they also should be tested for the virus. Previously, only patients were targeted for testing.
Kwiatkowski also worked at Hays Medical Center in 2010. Three patients at HaysMed have tested positive for a strain of the hepatitis C virus that closely is related to the strain carried by Kwiatkowski.
Exeter spokesperson Debra Vasapolli told Seacoastonline.com on Friday the employees worked in certain areas of the hospital in specific time frames but did not elaborate. She added the testing is voluntary and recommended by the state.
According to the report, the state is recommending additional testing because the latest patient to have tested positive was in the hospital's catheterization laboratory before Kwiatkowski worked there. Then the same patient later was admitted to a different part of the hospital.
The report went on to say if the patient went on to contract hepatitis C from Kwiatkowski, it could mean it was not where he worked at the hospital. Or it could mean the patient was infected by another person at the hospital, the report said.
HaysMed officials weren't available for comment late Friday afternoon in regard to whether it would be necessary for the hospital to have any employees tested, in light of the developments at Exeter Hospital.
According to WJLA.com, Exeter Hospital at first targeted approximately 1,300 patients for testing, those who had been treated in the cardiac lab during Kwiatkowski's employment. That number later increased to approximately 3,300 patients, to also cover those patients who had surgery in the hospital or were admitted to the intensive care unit in that time span. According to Exeter, Kwiatkowski occasionally moved patients to the operating room or the ICU but wasn't involved with procedures or patient care, the report said.
HaysMed said Friday morning it did not plan to have additional patients tested beyond the 474 who were identified as possibly exposed at the time Kwiatkowski was employed at the hospital as a traveling medical technician.
"Right now, we do not have plans to expand the testing as we do not have evidence to suggest any patients beyond those treated in the cath lab from May 24, 2010, to Sept. 22, 2010, need to be tested," Shae Veach, HayMed vice president of regional operations, said in an email. "We are, however, staying in close touch with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment regarding any developments in New Hampshire or any other state that would impact our thinking."
After Kwiatkowski left Hays, he is known to have worked at one other hospital before being hired at Exeter. Kwiatkowski worked at Houston Medical Center in Warner Robins, Ga., from October 2010 to March 2011. Hospital officials there have identified fewer than 100 patients who needed to be contacted for testing. Citing an ongoing investigation, the hospital said it was not at liberty to share additional information.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment announced Monday a third patient to test positive at HaysMed. Some tests still are being processed, and 58 patients are deceased since they were patients in that time frame. There were 334 negative results as of Monday, still leaving some patients to be tested.
"While I can't discuss specific patient interactions, we have encouraged all patients to be tested and explained the reasons it is important," Veach said in the email. "There are a few patients who have not yet been tested that we are still attempting to follow up with, but the vast majority have been tested and/or been contacted regarding their plans."
Kwiatkowski was arrested July 19 and charged with illegally obtaining drugs and tampering with a consumer product. He is accused of stealing drugs from Exeter Hospital and contaminating syringes that were used on patients.
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended all baby boomers receive a one-time hepatitis C test. One in 30 persons born from 1945 through 1965 has been infected with hepatitis C -- and most don't know it, the CDC said.
Hepatitis C causes serious liver damage, including liver cancer, and is the leading cause of liver transplants in the United States. More than 15,000 Americans, most of them baby boomers, die each year from hepatitis C-related illness.
"A one-time blood test for hepatitis C should be on every baby boomer's checklist," CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden said in a news release. "The new recommendations can protect the health of an entire generation of Americans and save thousands of lives."
Although the recommendation has been amended since, the CDC has requested the hepatitis C testing for baby boomers since at least 1998.
-- RANDY GONZALES, HDN
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Hays Medical Center patients can be tested at no charge at Quest, 2501 Canterbury. If this site is not convenient, patients also can have the lab work done at their local hospital. Information about additional test sites is available at haysmed.com.
HaysMed's telephone hotline will be open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. The number to call is (877) 261-7140.