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Rogue Radiology Tech Causes Panic In 8 States

August 21, 2012
Written by: , Filed in: Cardiac Imaging, Medical Ethics, Practice Management
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Former hospital patients in eight states are getting tested for hepatitis C after the arrest in New Hampshire last month of a radiology technician who hopped from hospital to hospital despite accusations of on-the-job drug use and stealing painkilling drugs intended for patients.

David Kwiatkowski, 33, is accused of infecting at least 31 patients with hepatitis C at Exeter Hospital in Exeter, New Hampshire. He worked in the cardiac catheterization lab there from April 2011 until his arrest in July. Police in Massachusetts took him to a hospital, then to jail after, they said, they found him intoxicated in a hotel room with a suicide note.

Kwiatkowski has been charged in federal court with obtaining controlled substances by fraud and tampering with a consumer product (a hospital syringe), according to CNN. Authorities accuse him of stealing fentanyl syringes and leaving used syringes in their place contaminated with his blood. Prosecutors say they have evidence he tested positive for hepatitis C at least as far back as 2010.

Kwiatkowski has pleaded not guilty and denies the charges. “I did not take any drugs or do any drugs,” he told the FBI, according to court records.

Linda Ficken, 70, has been diagnosed with a strain of hepatitis C closely related to the one that Kwiatkowski carries, according to the Kansas health department. She went to Hays Medical Center in Hays, Kansas, two years ago to get a pacemaker. Kwiatkowski worked in the heart cath lab at Hays fromĀ  May 2010 into September of that year. Ficken isn’t happy:

He put me and my family in jeopardy. He put a lot of people in jeopardy, and this is just going to continue to mushroom. Somebody fell down on the job someplace. He didn’t slip through the cracks on his own.

Ficken was quoted in a detailed Associated Press account of the case. It makes for fascinating, if horrifying, reading.

Kwiatkowski was able to “slip through the cracks” in New Hampshire, Georgia, Kansas, Arizona, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, and his native Michigan. He worked as a radiology technician and medical technician in cardiac cath labs in those states starting in January 2007. Despite being fired at least twice after allegedly being caught abusing painkillers and stealing drugs while at work, he apparently had no trouble moving to another state and getting another job.

There is no national licensing program for radiology techs, and no national database noting charges of misconduct or disciplinary actions. Some states don’t even require them to be licensed. The AP and CNN chronologies of his odyssey are full of such comments as:

  • “We had no evidence.”
  • “… caught him with a syringe, but did not witness him in the act of committing a crime.”
  • “… did not have first-hand evidence …”
  • “We had no jurisdiction.”
  • “He provided a plausible explanation for his condition.”

One suspects, and hopes, that this case may provide some impetus toward more uniform standards and national tracking of licensing status and work histories.

Related seminar: Cardiovascular & Pulmonary Imaging

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2 Responses to “Rogue Radiology Tech Causes Panic In 8 States”

  1. Radiology Daily»AlertArchive » Judge: Tech Credentialer Can’t Duck Lawsuit on January 30th, 2013 at 10:35 am

    […] Prosecutors say Kwiatkowski, who has hepatitis C, injected himself with narcotics intended for patients, refilling the needles with a saline solution to avoid detection. The tainted needles then infected patients, prosecutors say. Kwiatkowski is jailed on charges of fraud and tampering, to which he has pleaded not guilty. He faces up to 98 years in jail and $3.5 million in fines. For background, see our report on the case from last August. […]

  2. Radiology Daily»AlertArchive » Tech Pleads Guilty In Multistate Hepatitis Case on August 15th, 2013 at 3:48 pm

    […] arrested, as we reported last year, Kwiatkowski said, “I did not take any drugs or do any drugs.” Apparently, that story […]