A traveling contract medical techician (“med tech”) had his career abruptly ended after being accused of causing a hepatitis C outbreak involving 31 patients over the period of a few months in a New Hampshire hospital. He was arrested and charged on July 19, 2012. Prior to his employment as a med tech in the cardiac catheterization lab at the New Hampshire hospital, where he had worked from April 2011 to May 2012, the med tech had worked in at least six other states, including at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland from July 2009 to January 2010.
Hepatitis C is a viral disease that leads to inflammation of the liver. Most people who become infected with the hepatitis C virus (“HCV”) have no initial symptoms of the infection, although about 1 in 10 have jaundice (yellowing of the skin) that gets better. Those with chronic HCV infection may develop liver cirrhosis (scarring of the liver). Infection with the virus typically is caused by exposure to blood infected with HCV, such as drug addicts who share contaminated needles, people who received contaminated blood or blood products before July 1992 (blood used in transfusions in the United States is routinely tested for HCV and other viruses and therefore the blood supply in the United States is generally considered safe), contaminated instruments used during acupuncture procedures or when receiving tattoos, and people who share toothbrushes or razors with people who are infected with HCV.
The New Hampshire med tech claimed that he was first diagnosed with hepatitis C in May 2012 but federal prosecutors allege that the med tech had tested positive for hepatitis C in June 2010.
Prosecutors claim that the med tech would inject himself with the powerful anesthetic fentanyl that he illegally obtained from the hospital that he would replace with saline solution and then use the same needles on patients in the cardiac catheterization lab. Syringes were allegedly found on several occasions in a bathroom near the cardiac catheterization lab. Various other employees in the cardiac catheterization lab in the New Hampshire hospital noted suspicious behavior exhibited by the med tech, including leaving the lab during procedures when he was sweating profusely and coming to the cath lab on his days off.
The med tech was arraigned by a federal magistrate at his hospital bedside in Massachusetts, where he is receiving medical treatment. The criminal charges can result in the med tech being imprisoned for up to 20 years.
This case involving the New Hampshire cath lab med tech who allegedly infected more than 30 patients with deadly hepatitis C by his reckless if not intentional behavior that knowingly exposed patients to deadly infections is a wake-up call for all of us that we rely on so many health care providers to do their jobs safely and professionally when we come under medical care for various tests or treatment. We usually do not know (or see) each person involved in the chain of medical care that we receive and we must rely on them and their employers to take all reasonable and necessary precautions to protect our safety and health.
While the New Hampshire hospital claims that it did a proper background check and pre-employment drug testing of the med tech, we wonder if the med tech’s allegedly suspicious on-the-job behavior should not have led to an earlier and more thorough investigation that may have prevented at least some of the 31 hepatitis C victims from becoming infected with HCV. We will not be surprised to learn that medical malpractice claims are made against the New Hampshire hospital in the future by some of the victims of the med tech’s wrongful and insidious actions that apparently led to their HCV infections.
If you or a loved one became infected with a serious virus or suffered a serious medical condition as a result of a hospital stay or a procedure conducted in a hospital or in a surgical facility, you may have a claim for medical malpractice for which a local medical malpractice attorney’s assistance may be essential.
Click here to visit our website or call us on our toll-free line (800-295-3959) to be connected with medical malpractice lawyers in your state who may be able to investigate your possible medical malpractice claim for you.
Turn to us when you don’t know where to turn.