Metro

Hepatitis outbreak drives change in New Hampshire

CONCORD, N.H. — Medical technicians are now required to register and hospitals will have to test employees if drug use is suspected, under two state laws signed on Wednesday by Governor Maggie Hassan in response to the case of a traveling technician who stole drugs and infected dozens of patients with hepatitis C.

State Representative Tom Sherman, who is also a doctor, was a co-sponsor of the bills filed in response to the conviction of David Kwiatkowski, who is serving 39 years in prison for stealing painkillers from Exeter Hospital and replacing them with saline-filled syringes tainted with his blood.

There is still no nationwide database of misconduct or disciplinary actions against technicians, as there is for physicians. New Hampshire has taken the lead in monitoring the technicians.

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While some states require certain technicians to be licensed, four of the states where Kwiatkowski worked, including New Hampshire, do not license any of them.

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‘‘The goal of the registry is to close the final gap in patient protections in the settings of controlled substances,’’ Sherman said Wednesday. ‘‘The federal attorney prosecuting the case has estimated that this single medical technician put 8,000 patients at risk nationwide.’’

Under the bill, a board will register health care workers who are not otherwise already licensed or registered and who have access to both drugs and patients.

Hospitals would be required to report disciplinary actions to the board, which could perform its own investigations of wrongdoing.

Since Kwiatkowski’s arrest in July 2012, 46 people in New Hampshire, Maryland, Kansas, and Pennsylvania have been diagnosed with the same strain of the hepatitis C virus he carries, and authorities say the disease played a role in one woman’s death.

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Kwiatkowski also worked in Michigan, New York, Arizona, and Georgia.