It has been a tough month for interventional cardiology. First, the hospital chain HCA confirmed in its Aug. 6 investor call that it had been approached by the civil division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami seeking reviews of its catheterization labs. Meanwhile, further up the East Coast, Exeter Hospital in Exeter, N.H., has been screening patients this month who underwent treatment in its cath lab who may have been infected with Hepatitis C.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office requested that HCA turn over any reviews assessing the necessity of cardiac services at its hospitals. The issue bubbled up to the surface after a former employee contacted HCA’s ethics office with concerns of unnecessary stenting at one facility in Florida. HCA officials said they provided reviews on 10 hospitals as of Aug. 6.
As of Aug. 15, the total number of cases tied to the Hepatitis C outbreak was 33, which included the alleged infector, a cath lab technician named David Kwiatkowski. He worked over the past decade in hospitals in six other states—Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, New York and Pennsylvania—which has prompted a wider investigation, according to the New York Times.
Exeter Hospital has appeared to be transparent and proactive in its handling of the outbreak. The hospital and the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services have provided updates on their websites with information on screening dates and sites. The hospital made public a document that described findings of an investigation of cath lab procedures that were deemed deficient. In particular, the report focused on practices to secure controlled substances, which the hospital has since addressed.
With HCA, I say innocent until proven guilty, but its hospitals should be prepared for further scrutiny. The Exeter outbreak offers a reminder of vulnerabilities of both patients and providers. Exeter continues to provide timely information as the investigation progresses. To date, it reported that it screened 973 patients; testing will continue through Aug. 16.
We will keep you apprised.
Cardiovascular Business, editor