BALTIMORE (WJZ) — An infection scandal exposed the lack of regulation for fill-in medical technicians in Maryland. There’s now a call for action after thousands of patients were exposed to a life-threatening virus.
Mike Hellgren spoke to one man who says he’s now infected with Hepatitis C and who has a warning for other patients.
Hospitals in Maryland have been proactive, testing those exposed but one patient questions whether red flags were missed and wants state health officials to better regulate all hospital staffers.
“That’s me when I served in Vietnam,” said Linwood Nelson.
Nelson is living with Hepatitis C, a dangerous virus that could destroy his liver. He believes a traveling technician, David Kwiatkowski, infected him at Baltimore’s VA Medical Center.
Federal prosecutors say Kwiatkowski was a drug addict with the virus and went from hospital to hospital, injecting himself with syringes meant for patients, then replacing them and spreading the illness.
“He has to live with for the rest of his life what he has done to so many people,” Nelson said.
What disturbs Nelson: the state does little to regulate traveling hospital technicians like Kwiatkowski.
“A contracted worker can walk in with the same duties as other workers and not be checked out. That doesn’t make sense to me,” Nelson said.
More than 160 patients at the VA are believed to have had contact with Kwiatkowski and more than 1,800 across Maryland.
He worked at Maryland General Hospital, Johns Hopkins and Southern Maryland Hospital, as well as the VA.
“I know now what has happened to me and I wouldn’t want that to happen to anyone else,” Nelson said.
New court records show when FBI agents finally caught up with Kwiatkowski, he was suicidal, admitting he “lied to a lot of people” but said, “I’m more concerned about myself.”
“I think that’s a very selfish person. However, that’s the thought process of a drug addict, apparently,” Nelson said. “Know who’s dealing with you. Know what their credentials are and don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s your body. You own it.”
Kwiatkowski faces 24 years in prison. His lawyers have declined to comment on the case. He’s currently in federal custody.
Several hospitals are already tightening their screening procedures for fill-in staffers. Maryland health officials are investigating regulations and expect to get recommendations on tightening them next year.