Tech in Houston Healthcare, multi-state hepatitis outbreak to plead

Associated PressAugust 13, 2013 

New Hampshire Year in Review

FILE - This undated file photo provided by the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Hampshire shows David Kwiatkowski, a former lab technician at Exeter, N.H., Hospital. Kwiatkowski, accused of infecting dozens of patients with hepatitis C through tainted needles, told investigators he had been stealing drugs for more than a decade and was "killing a lot of people," according to a plea agreement filed Monday, Aug. 12, 2013, that would send him to prison for 30 to 40 years. (AP Photo/U.S. Attorney's Office, File)

UNCREDITED — AP

CONCORD, N.H. -- A hospital technician accused of causing a multistate outbreak of hepatitis C will plead guilty in exchange for a prison term of 30 to 40 years, according to a plea agreement filed Monday in New Hampshire federal court.

The plea says it would allow David Kwiatkowski to avoid criminal charges in Kansas, Maryland and Georgia -- states where authorities say the traveling cardiac technologist injected himself with painkillers then put saline back in the tainted needles.

Kwiatkowski worked as a contract employee from Oct. 25, 2010, to March 17, 2011, at Houston Medical Center in Warner Robins. Local officials alerted hundreds of Houston Medical Center patients in 2012 who were treated while he worked there in the heart catheterization lab, suggesting they be tested for the life-threatening infection.

Dozens of patients nationwide were infected as a result of Kwiatkowski’s actions, according to the plea agreement. One patient in Kansas who was infected with hepatitis C genetically linked to Kwiatkowski’s strain died and the infection played a “contributing role” in the patient’s death, the plea agreement said.

The agreement includes details of an interview Kwiatkowski gave investigators in New Hampshire after his arrest, saying he knew he’d been diagnosed in 2010 but continued to “swap out” syringes of the painkiller fentanyl.

Houston Healthcare released a statement in 2012 stating that Kwiatkowski did not have access to the medication system at Houston Medical Center.

According to the agreement, Kwiatkowski said he was the only person involved in the diverting of drugs at Exeter Hospital in New Hampshire then added, “and I’m going to kill a lot of people out of this.”

Kwiatkowski also infected patients at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore, the VA Medical Center in Baltimore and Hays Medical Center in Kansas, according to the plea agreement signed by Kwiatkowski and his attorneys on July 18.

Under the terms of the deal, Kwiatkowski will plead guilty to seven counts each of tampering with a consumer product and obtaining controlled substances by fraud.

Kwiatkowski, who grew up in Michigan, worked as a “traveler” sent by staffing agencies to hospitals around the country, usually for temporary jobs. In announcing federal drug charges last year, U.S. Attorney John Kacavas called him a “serial infector.”

Kwiatkowski’s attorney did not immediately return a phone message left at his office Monday night.

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report.

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