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SPOTLIGHT
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Hepatitis concerns

Published on -7/29/2012, 3:47 PM

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Malicious, cruel and violent acts are difficult enough to rationalize. They become even harder when random targets are selected.

Isolated in the generally friendly confines of northwest Kansas, we count our blessings that shooting rampages, arsons and serial killings take place in big cities far away.

We do have the occasional outbreak of tornadoes and even rarer floods, but by and large we don't have many crisis situations to contend with.

When we do, it's comforting to know there are professionals in place to guide us through whatever event takes place. Hays Medical Center is managing such a situation thrust upon its staff from afar.

Ten days ago, a health-care employee was arrested in New Hampshire on charges of causing an outbreak of hepatitis C. David Kwiatkowski, a radiology technologist, allegedly contaminated syringes with his own blood that were later used on patients. According to the charges, Kwiatkowski might have infected 30 patients at Exeter Hospital on purpose with the infection that can cause liver disease and chronic health issues.

The notion a person devoted to making patients better willfully would try to harm them is unfathomable and grotesque. Nonetheless, that appears to be what health-care and law enforcement officials are looking at. As Kwiatkowski is a contract or traveling technician, every hospital he's worked at is attempting to determine if anything happened at their locale. In addition to New Hampshire, Kwiatkowski has worked in Georgia, Maryland, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania and Kansas. He worked in the cardiac catheterization laboratory at HaysMed from May 24, 2010, to Sept. 22, 2010.

While HaysMed and Kansas Department of Health and Environment officials have no reason to believe Kwiatkowski attempted to harm any patients while here, they're taking no chances. They identified approximately 460 patients who underwent cardiac catheterization procedures during that time period, and immediately began the process of contacting them. All of the patients are being encouraged to have their blood tested for hepatitis C at their local hospital or at Quest Diagnostics in Hays -- at no charge.

HaysMed also immediately set up a telephone hotline and posted information prominently on its website.

"The health and well-being of our patients and staff is always our first priority," said HaysMed President and CEO Dr. John Jeter.

The notified patients already have begun being tested. Blood samples are being sent to KDHE, and HaysMed should have results in two to three weeks. On the off chance anybody tests positive, the hospital has a variety of treatment options available.

The response from HaysMed is textbook-perfect. No panic, no denial -- nothing but the utmost professionalism in handling a potentially difficult crisis situation.

We'd expect nothing less from a hospital that anchors both the community and region. HaysMed is doing everything it can do provide the support necessary for those 460 patients.

Not everybody will believe that, of course. Already there are out-of-state law firms circling like buzzards overhead, preparing to file claims whether anybody tests positive or not. Their motivation is simple: Money.

We would hope any of the 460 not be enticed by such ambulance-chasers. Rather, the patients should follow through the straightforward process set up by HaysMed and KDHE. Quality care and compassion is readily available.

If you are one of the individuals who underwent a cath procedure during the aforementioned timeframe, get yourself tested. More information is available by calling the hotline at (877) 261-7140.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net

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