UPMC, staffing firms named in hepatitis C lawsuit

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Attorney Lynn R. Johnson, JD, filed a lawsuit Sept. 3, on behalf of Linda Ficken, who was infected with hepatitis C while undergoing a 2010 medical procedure at the Hays Medical Center. At the time of the procedure, radiologic technologist David Kwiatkowski, who has been diagnosed with hepatitis C, worked at Hays Medical Center under a temporary agreement with Medical Solutions, an Omaha, Neb., staffing agency.

Medical Solutions staffed Kwiatkowski in Hays, Kan., without thoroughly checking his background, which included dismissals for suspicious conduct and at least one incident in which Kwiatkowski was found passed out with syringes in an Arizona hospital locker room, according to a press release issued by the Shamberg, Johnson & Bergman law firm.

Before Medical Solutions, Kwiatkowski worked at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Presbyterian under a contract with Maxim Staffing Solutions out of Maryland. At UPMC Presbyterian, an employee saw Kwiatkowski put a syringe of the pain killer fentanyl in his pants. UPMC confronted Kwiatkowski and found empty fentanyl on him and a morphine syringe in his locker. UPMC dismissed Kwiatkowski. A urine test revealed fentanyl and opiates in his system.

But UPMC did not report the theft of fentanyl, a schedule II narcotic, to authorities, violating federal reporting requirements, according to the release. Maxim also failed to report the theft, allowing Kwiatkowski to continue to work at hospitals around the U.S.

Since Kwiatkowski's arrest this summer for stealing controlled substances, dozens of patients from New Hampshire to Kansas have tested positive for the same strain of hepatitis C that Kwiatkowski had.

"This lawsuit will ensure that hospitals and medical staffing agencies report suspicious behavior and vet their employees," Johnson said. 

Ficken's lawsuit is pending in Alleghany County, Penn. It names UPMC Presbyterian, Medical Solutions and Maxim as defendants.