A year later, most HaysMed patients tested for disease
By RANDY GONZALES
Almost a year after Hays Medical Center first learned a former contract employee possibly had exposed patients to hepatitis C, most of those former patients have since been tested for the viral disease.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment said on July 20, 2012, that David Kwiatkowski, a traveling hospital technician, was accused of causing an outbreak of the disease in New Hampshire. KDHE said Kwiatkowski worked in the cardiac catheterization laboratory at HaysMed from May 24 to Sept. 22, 2010. HaysMed and KDHE then began notifying patients treated in the lab during that time period, informing them they needed to be tested. KDHE said only those patients who underwent cardiac catheterization procedures at HaysMed during that time span were potentially put at risk.
Kwiatkowski allegedly spread a strain of hepatitis C through use of tainted syringes. Since his arrest last July, 47 people in four states have been diagnosed with the strain of hepatitis C carried by Kwiatkowski, who worked in 18 hospitals in seven states.
Included in those infected are six HaysMed patients. According to updated statistics released last week by KDHE, 474 patents at HaysMed were determined to be potentially exposed. Of that number, 60 were deceased at time of notification, leaving 414 patients potentially available for testing. There were 396 patients tested, with six found to have a strain of hepatitis C related to the outbreak.
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne viral infection that can cause liver damage and chronic health problems.
"In the year since Mr. Kwiatkowski's arrest, HaysMed has been privileged to continue providing the high quality of care western Kansans deserve and expect from our facility. We have worked closely with patients impacted by this situation, their primary care providers and public health officials and will continue to do so," said Shae Veach, vice president of regional operations at HaysMed. "The alleged criminal actions of one individual have had implications for numerous health care facilities across the United States. At HaysMed, we resolved from the start to ensure we did everything necessary for our patients and to coordinate closely with state health officials to fully review this individual's short time as a contract employee at HaysMed."
Veach said HaysMed has reviewed hospital policies since Kwiatkowski's employment.
"While officials have noted that Mr. Kwiatkowski's alleged conduct is beyond the pale of anything they have seen, we have worked closely with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to review relevant policies and procedures at HaysMed," Veach said.
"In general, we continually make adjustments to our policies and procedures based on changes in best practices and additional information.
"In addition, we support efforts to create a national standard of information sharing that would allow hospitals like HaysMed to have a full picture of a person's work history and any previous issues before employment."
Kwiatkowski, who has pleaded not guilty to 14 counts of stealing and tampering with controlled drugs, is set to go to trial in January.
* The Associated Press contributed to this report.