Earlier this week, David Kwiatkowski, a former hospital lab technician, was sentenced to 39 years in federal prison after admitting to causing a hepatitis outbreak last summer. Kwiatkowski admitted to infecting 46 people in New Hampshire, Maryland and Kansas by injecting himself with syringes of fetanyl from patients intended for surgery. He then replaced the fetanyl with saline before replacing them. Thus, patients who thought they were getting a painkiller were instead getting saline tainted with Kwiatkowski's infected blood. One victim in Kansas died. He also admitted to diverting drugs in other states as well. Kwiatkowski was staring down the barrel of 98 years in prison had he not taken the plea, but at least had the decency to spare his victims and their families the trauma of a trial.
However, there are several other culprits who have yet to be punished. When the New Hampshire Union Leader reported on the plea deal Kwiatkowski reached with federal prosecutors earlier this summer, it noted that he worked at several hospitals across the country from 2003 to 2012--and was fired or forced to resign from several of them.
Kwiatkowski was employed at several health care facilities in Michigan between 2003 and 2007. He was fired from a St. Joseph Mercy Health System in 2004 after testing positive for controlled drugs, the plea agreement said. He was fired from William Beaumont Hospital in 2004 for "gross misconduct" and he resigned from a position at the University of Michigan Hospital in 2006 during an investigation into missing drugs, including fentanyl.And yet, despite all this, Kwiatkowski still managed to get jobs in hospitals. To put it mildly, this is unconscionable. As far as I'm concerned, Kwiatkowski's previous employers are complicit in this horror.
Kwiatkowski resigned from a position at Michigan's Oakwood Annapolis Hospital after he was suspended pending an investigation of potential controlled substance abuse, according to the plea deal.
In May 2008, Kwiatkowski was terminated from a placement at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center after he was caught diverting the drug fentanyl. But less than two weeks later, he got a job at the VA Medical Center in Maryland where he worked until November 2008.
He worked at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Maryland between July 2009 and January 2010, during which time at least six patients became infected with his strain of hepatitis C, according to the plea agreement.
Kwiatkowski moved on to the Arizona Heart Hospital in March 2010 but was let go after he was found unresponsive in a restroom just a month later. A needle and syringe labeled "fentanyl" were seen by witnesses floating in a toilet. Drug testing showed he had marijuana and cocaine in his system, according to the agreement.
Kwiatkowski will likely be in his mid-70s by the time he gets out of prison, if he lives that long (according to Involuntary Exile, he'll almost certainly die of liver cancer unless he endures a year of debilitating therapy to clear the hepatitis virus from his system). But there is something fundamentally wrong if Kwiatkowski is the only one who has to answer for this horror. By all rights, every place that hired Kwiatkowski and didn't look into his background ought to be staring down the barrel of lawsuits. They not only failed to protect the public, but their own employees.