Recent Hepatitis Updates
Wednesday, October 17, 2012 – Exeter Hospital Statement Regarding Today's Hearing
Exeter Hospital presented its concerns today at a hearing before Merrimack County Supreme Court Justice Richard McNamara regarding the State’s continuing demands for unlimited access to its entire patient record system. While Exeter Hospital remains committed to supporting and completing all of the investigations underway into the alleged criminal activity of ex-employee David Kwiatkowski that may be linked to the hepatitis C infection of 32 hospital patients, the hospital is subject to a variety of federal and state laws that require it to act to protect patient confidentiality.
The Court listened to arguments from both the Hospital and the State for over two hours, and asked numerous questions of the representatives of each. In his comments Justice McNamara noted repeatedly that this was a complicated and serious matter that involved the balancing of conflicting interests concerning the State’s interests and patient privacy. He made it clear that, regardless of how the Court may ultimately decide, the hospital acted responsibly and appropriately to seek judicial guidance to resolve these conflicts.
The Hospital was surprised and disappointed however by the comments of Assistant Attorney General Herrick, reported in the press, that the State wouldn’t provide the patient names of the records it wished to review since it didn’t trust the Hospital not to alter them. Modification of medical records is strictly prohibited by law and Exeter Hospital would never alter critical patient records to advance its business interests.
Exeter Hospital awaits the Court’s ruling that it requested on how it should proceed, and is prepared to act in accordance with the law. Exeter Hospital has served the region for over 100 years providing care to Seacoast residents and the focus of the hospital continues to be on the well-being and safety of its patients.
Wednesday, October 9, 2012 – Editorial on Medical Records Misinformed
To the Editor:
With all due respect to the editors at Seacoast Media Group, the comments related to patient privacy expressed in their editorial “Hospital Should Turn Over Records” are inaccurate and misinformed. Hospitals in the state of New Hampshire have explicit legal obligations and responsibilities to protect patient privacy and to limit access to confidential medical records to those situations, which the law permits.
Contrary to what is stated in the editorial, the state epidemiologist is looking for unfettered access to our entire medical record system. Once state investigators are at a computer and reviewing records, they could look at anything including, for example, such highly sensitive records concerning rape treatment, psychiatric conditions or child abuse. Is this really what the editorial board is advocating?
If a possible crime is committed in one home in a neighborhood, law enforcement authorities cannot search all the other homes in that neighborhood without probable cause and a proper search warrant. Similarly, we believe that the various state and federal laws that we cited in our court filing do not give the State the right to view any medical information regarding any patient they choose without specific justification. As the custodian of the medical information of our patients we have the absolute legal and ethical obligation to raise these concerns – and we have done so.
Since the moment our physicians identified the first suspicious cases of hepatitis C, Exeter Hospital proactively notified authorities and has consistently supported the resulting investigations. We certainly intend to continue doing this, but our patients have a continuing and legitimate right to medical privacy. All we have done is to ask the court to rule on how the interests of patient privacy intersect with the legitimate objectives of the State. A hearing date has been set for October 17 and we hope that the editors from Seacoast Media Group will support this important legal process and allow the court to weigh in on the protection of patient privacy.
Vice President of Community Relations & Development, Exeter Hospital
Vice Chair Litigation
Nixon Peabody, LLC
Exeter Hospital Response to the State's Legal Filings Related to their Request for Expanded Access to Confidential Patient Medical Records
Wednesday, October 3, 2012 – Exeter Hospital is required by state and federal law to protect our patients’ confidential medical records from inappropriate access, even by state officials.
Exeter Hospital is not looking to impede the state’s investigation in anyway through its legal filings. The hospital’s original filing in the New Hampshire Superior Court this past August was solely intended to secure judicial guidance on how the hospital can continue to support the state’s Division of Public Health Services’ investigation into the hepatitis C outbreak that was caused by the alleged criminal activity of Mr. David Kwiatkowski, while maintaining our legal and moral obligation to our patients’ privacy. Since the moment Exeter Hospital proactively contacted the state back in May about the first identified cases of hepatitis C, we have been working diligently to support that investigation.
As stated previously, Exeter Hospital is concerned about the breadth of the state’s broad request for access to patient medical records without a clearly articulated argument for why that access is critical to support their investigation. We are prepared to support the court’s judgment on whether the state’s request is in compliance with state and federal privacy laws.
Exeter Hospital will continue to share information about this outbreak and the ongoing testing as it becomes available. We encourage anyone looking for the most recent updates to visit our dedicated hepatitis C page at exeterhospital.com/hepatitis-c-information or via Facebook and Twitter-@ExeterHospital.