Former UPMC hospital worker gets 39 years in hepatitis C case
CONCORD, N.H. — The 39-year prison sentence imposed upon a traveling medical technician who infected patients with hepatitis C through tainted syringes is “justified,” an attorney representing one of the victims said on Monday.
“Considering the fact that it was a premeditated act and the fact that there were so many victims, I would think that it's justice,” said Pittsburgh attorney Bill Caroselli, the civil attorney for Linda Ficken, 71, of Andover, Kan.
David Kwiatkowski, 34, a cardiac technologist, pleaded guilty in August to 14 theft and drug charges and agreed to serve a 30- to 40-year sentence.
Prosecutors said Kwiatkowski worked in 18 hospitals in seven states — including UPMC Presbyterian in Oakland — before Exeter Hospital in New Hampshire hired him in 2011. He moved from job to job despite being fired at least four times over allegations of drug use and theft.
Since his arrest last year, 46 people have been diagnosed with the strain of hepatitis C he carries.
UPMC officials fired Kwiatkowski in May 2008 on suspicion of stealing narcotics. Officials said he worked at the Oakland hospital for 47 days.
“We had one patient who had the same strain (of hepatitis C) as Mr. Kwiatkowski, but there's no evidence that this patient was infected here,” said UPMC spokeswoman Gloria Kreps. “We tested a lot of patients. We offered testing to even more.”
Ficken, who attended the sentencing hearing in Concord, filed a civil lawsuit against UPMC, Maxim Staffing Solutions of Columbia, Md., and Medical Solutions LLC of Omaha in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court in September 2012, claiming the hospital and staffing companies failed to properly vet and oversee Kwiatkowski.
She underwent a cardiac catheterization at Hays Medical Center in Kansas in 2010 and said she is haunted by the memory of Kwiatkowski standing at her bedside for more than an hour, applying pressure to the catheter's entry site in her leg to control a bleeding problem.
In a written statement to the court, she told Kwiatkowski she would like him to spend the rest of his life “locked away from society, in a prison that provides you the ultimate hell on earth, which you so deserve.”
Kwiatkowski admitted stealing painkillers and replacing them with saline-filled syringes tainted with his blood. He apologized.
Prosecutors pushed for a 40-year prison sentence, saying he set off a “national public health crisis” and put a significant number of people at risk.
Defense lawyers argued that a 30-year sentence would better balance the seriousness of the crimes against Kwiatkowski's mental and emotional problems, and his addiction to drugs and alcohol, which they said clouded his judgment.
Trib Total Media staff writer Adam Brandolph contributed to this report.