A hepatitis C outbreak at a Northeastern U.S. hospital has spread concerns across at least six states, including Arizona. A 32-year-old medical technician was arrested Thursday. Authorities believe that his use of the powerful anesthetic fentanyl led to the hepatitis C outbreak at the hospital. Fentanyl is like morphine's big brother.
Authorities believe that the medical technician infected more than 30 patients at the single location, but the technician has worked at hospitals in recent years in several other states, including Arizona.
The current allegations in the Northeastern U.S. say that the medical technician took syringes of fentanyl from the cardiac catheterization lab for his own use and then returned the dirty syringes to the lab. The dirty syringes were later used on patients at the hospital. At least one medical malpractice lawsuit has already been filed, and others are expected.
The FBI says that the technician used a scheme that the feds characterize as drug diversion. The medical worker uses a drug meant for patients, and then replaces the drug with some form of substitute substance, such as saline.
Coworkers of the man accused of being a serial infector say that he would often report to work on days when he was not scheduled. The witnesses say that the technician also would exit the lab after procedures "sweating profusely," and looking as if he was "on something," according to the FBI.
The man accused of serial infection in the Northeast had previously worked in the cardiac catheterization labs at two Arizona hospitals. The tech worked at Arizona Heart Hospital from March 2009 to June 2010, according to the Phoenix New Times. The tech also reportedly worked at Maryville Hospital in Phoenix from March 2010 to April 2010.
The medical technician says that he was unaware that he had hepatitis C until May of this year. However, sources say that the technician had been diagnosed as early as June 2010.
The medical technician had been what many are calling a travelling technician who worked for a temporary staffing agency. Apparently, the Northeastern U.S. hospital where the hepatitis C outbreak occurred had hired the worker on full-time. The recently filed lawsuit accuses the temporary staffing agency of negligence in hiring and in the supervision of the medical technician.
The Maricopa Department of Public Health says patients who may have come in contact with the technician in either of the two Arizona hospitals can call 602-674-6844 for information on hepatitis C screenings, according to the Phoenix New Times.
- Phoenix New Times, "David Kwiatkowski, Suspected of Infecting Patients with Hepatitis C in New Hampshire, Also Worked at Two Arizona Hospitals," Jason Lewis, July 26, 2012
- Boston Globe, "6 states trace path of worker accused of infecting patients with hepatitis C," Chelsea Conoboy, July 23, 2012