Houston Healthcare notifies additional 400 patients of hepatitis C investigation

jmink@macon.comNovember 12, 2012 

WARNER ROBINS -- About four months after a former Houston Healthcare contract employee was accused of spreading hepatitis C to patients in a New Hampshire hospital, local officials have alerted hundreds of additional Houston Medical Center patients who were treated while he worked there.

Houston Healthcare recently sent letters to more than 400 patients, suggesting they be tested for the life-threatening infection. David Kwiatkowski, who temporarily worked in Houston Medical Center’s heart catheterization lab, is accused of infecting more than 30 people, mainly in New Hampshire, and possibly infecting many more patients across the country with tainted syringes.

While letters were sent this summer to fewer than 100 local patients who might have had contact with Kwiatkowski, Houston Healthcare was encouraged to notify additional patients who were treated in an area where Kwiatkowski worked. As part of a multistate investigation, Houston Healthcare began alerting those additional patients in September, according to a statement from the hospital.

No local hepatitis C cases that match the strain under investigation have been reported, according to the statement.

“As a result of their findings in other states, Public Health recommended we expand our testing to include patients who received injectable narcotics and received care in an area where David worked,” Cary Martin, chief executive officer of Houston Healthcare, said in the statement.

A traveling hospital technician, Kwiatkowski worked from Oct. 25, 2010 to March 17, 2011 at Houston Medical Center.

Kwiatkowski worked since 2007 in several hospitals across the country, where authorities claim he stole anesthetic drugs by injecting himself, contaminating syringes that were later used on patients. He has pleaded not guilty in New Hampshire to illegally obtaining drugs and tampering with a consumer product, according to the Associated Press.

He did not have access to the medication system at Houston Medical Center, Houston Healthcare said in a previous statement.

“Testing for the identified patients is ongoing,” Martin said. “As the process continues, we will provide updates as appropriate while working within applicable patient privacy and criminal investigative boundaries.”

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