The infamous David Kwiatkowski, a former UPMC Presbyterian employee and traveling medical technician who serially infected at least 45 people with Hepatitis C, was sentenced on Monday to 39 years in prison.
In August, the 34-year-old Kwiatkowski pleaded guilty to sixteen federal charges. Some of those charges include tampering with a consumer product and obtaining controlled substances through fraud. Prosecutors for the case claimed that while Kwiatkowski worked in at least eight different states as a medical technician, he injected himself with the painkiller fentanyl, a drug akin to morphine. Kwiatkowski would then fill the syringes up with saline and put them back where he got them, allowing them to be used by future patients.
During the summer of 2012, thousands of people were tested for Hepatitis C, which is the communicable disease spread by Kwiatkowski that causes cirrhosis and can lead to liver cancer. The forty-five people cited in the case, one of whom passed away from complications from Hepatitis C, represent one of the largest American outbreaks of the disease in over twenty years.
One of the hospitals in which Kwiatkowski worked was UPMC Presbyterian in Pittsburgh. He was hired as a medical technician from March 2008 until May 2008. His short term there ended as a result of hospital staff accusing him of stealing syringes filled with fentanyl.
This past July, an Allegheny County judge terminated a lawsuit filed against UPMC and Maxim Healthcare Services, a subsidiary that provides healthcare temps. In a controversial decision, the judge dismissed allegations that the hospital and staffing agency were negligent for failing to report the accusations against Kwiatkowski to the proper officials.
"There's no excuse for what I've done. I know the pain and suffering I have caused," said Kwiatkowski, standing before his victims in a Concord, New Hampshire courtroom. He admitted that his addiction to alcohol and painkillers got the best of him and that he had been stealing drugs since 2003. One of the victims told the court that she is now no longer able to donate bone marrow to her brother, a leukemia patient.
Prosecutors initially asked that he spend forty years in jail, but the judge reduced it to thirty-nine. As he was being sentenced, the judge told Kwiatkowski that he should recognize and remember the next thirty-nine years in prison and focus on the one year that he didn't get in an attempt to develop some sort of inner-strength.
The U.S. attorney for New Hampshire said that cases such as Kwiatkowski's are why perhaps not more, but better regulations should be put into place to screen people before they are hired by hospitals, regardless of whether it's through a temp agency or not. The U.S. attorney went on to say that although the conclusion of Kwiatkowski's prosecution closes the criminal aspects of the case, it is a reminder of the problem of drug diversion in medical settings.
A son of one of the victims gave the final statement, telling the court that Kwiatkowski ultimately gave his mother the death sentence and that, like many others, he could not understand how Kwiatkowski remained working in hospitals after repeatedly being fired for stealing in the past.
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Former UPMC worker in hepatitis case gets 39 years" 2 December 2013