17 sue UPMC, claiming exposure to hepatitis C

Technician accused of infecting syringes

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Seventeen people from Western Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit against UPMC and Maxim Healthcare Services Tuesday involving a radiology technician who allegedly exposed patients at hospitals around the country with hepatitis C.

The complaint, which seeks class-action status for as many as 2,000 patients who may have been exposed, was filed in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court.

Among the plaintiffs named is one man who died in January from liver failure, three patients who have tested positive for hepatitis C, five patients who have tested negative and one who is awaiting results of a blood test.

David Kwiatkowski, a radiology technician who worked for UPMC from March to May 2008, is accused of infecting syringes after he used them to feed his drug addiction. He is currently facing criminal charges in U.S. District Court in New Hampshire.

According to the complaint, on May 7, 2008, a UPMC hospital employee saw Mr. Kwiatkowski enter an operating room, lift his shirt and put a syringe in his pants. The hospital found that the syringe contained fentanyl, a painkiller. Other syringes were found on him and in his locker. He was terminated, but continued to be employed by Maxim, a staffing agency.

UPMC has already been sued by patients of other hospitals in other states alleging that the hospital system and Maxim did not report Mr. Kwiatkowski to any government agency.

In the two years after he worked in Pittsburgh, Mr. Kwiatkowski went on to work in at least eight more hospitals, including Johns Hopkins in Baltimore from July 2009 to January 2010, and Hays Medical Center in Hays, Kan., in May 2010.

According to the complaint filed Tuesday, George W. Malizia, of New Castle, was treated at UPMC in March 2008 after having a heart attack. He underwent a quadruple bypass and was released on March 31, 2008.

Less than two months later, he was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver.

Malizia died on Jan. 1, and his widow, Trenda Malizia, received a letter in August from UPMC informing her husband he may have been exposed to hepatitis C while he was hospitalized.

Douglas J. Olcott, who represents the plaintiffs, said that even for his clients who tested negative, they were faced with anxiety in the days they spent waiting for testing and their results.

For those who have tested positive, the complaint said, they are awaiting results to show if they have the same strain as Mr. Kwiatkowski.

neigh_city - region - health

Paula Reed Ward: pward@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2620.


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