TOPEKA — A traveling medical worker has admitted to infecting six patients in Kansas with Hepatitis C, including one who died, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said Wednesday.
David M. Kwiatkowski, 34, a former employee of Hays Medical Center, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in New Hampshire to seven counts of tampering with a consumer product and seven counts of obtaining controlled substances by fraud. At the same time, he agreed to have charges filed against him in Kansas — one count of tampering with a consumer product and one count of obtaining controlled substances by fraud – transferred to New Hampshire and he pleaded guilty to them as well.
In his plea, Kwiatkowski admitted exposing patients in Kansas, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Arizona, Georgia and New Hampshire to Hepatitis C, a blood-borne viral disease that is transmitted by exposure to infected blood. The disease, which can cause liver damage and other health problems, can be deadly. Kwiatkowski transmitted the virus by stealing fentanyl, which is a medication for pain, injecting the drug into his body, refilling a syringe with saline, and allowing the contents of the saline-filled syringe, which was tainted with Hepatitis C virus, to be injected into patients. In his plea, he admitted swapping syringes at least 20 times while he worked in Kansas.
Kwiatkowski was a radiologic technician who worked at several health care facilities in Michigan between 2003 and 2007. In November 2007, he became a “traveler,” working through placement agencies and taking short-term positions at various medical facilities. In May 2010 he worked at Hays Medical Center. While he was working there, a physician told him he had Hepatitis C. At least six patients who where treated at Hays during the time he worked there were found to be infected with a strain of Hepatitis C that has been genetically linked to the strain with which he is infected. One of the patients underwent cardiac catheterization on June 7 and July 12, 2010. A medical examiner has concluded that Hepatitis C played a role in contributing to that patient’s death.
As a result of Kwiatkowski’s actions, public health departments and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a massive public health investigation. Public health authorities recommended that more than 11,000 people be tested for possible Hepatitis C infection.
Kwiatkowski will be sentenced by a federal judge in New Hampshire on Dec. 3 on both the New Hampshire and the Kansas charges. Based on the plea agreement, he faces a penalty of no less than 30 years and no more than 40 years in federal prison.
Grissom commended the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Hampshire, especially Assistant United States Attorney John Farley, the FBI, the Office of Criminal Investigations of the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Tanya Treadway for their work on the case.