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Med tech infects patients; sheds light on hiring standard of care

New Jersey residents are probably aware of a recent hepatitis outbreak that is emerging in neighboring states and across the country. Details of the work of a travelling medical technician are raising concerns in medical facilities in at least eight states. The man is accused of spreading hepatitis C.

A class action lawsuit and a negligence claim have been filed against a staffing facility in Omaha that contracted out work for the accused. Other medical malpractice claims may arise against facilities where the man worked because these facilities have a duty to properly vet employees and maintain a certain standard of care for patients.

Earlier this month, authorities arrested the man for infecting 33 patients in a New Hampshire facility. The subsequent criminal investigation is to ensure that the disease has not spread outside of the Northeast and in other places where the man worked. The man infected people by using needles to inject himself with painkillers and then leaving the syringes to be re-used on patients. He apparently tested positive for hepatitis C in 2010. Authorities are asking patients who worked with the technician to come forward and volunteer for testing.

The negligence claim against the staffing facility states that the company knew or should have known of the accused's likelihood to harm the victim and that it should have investigated the accused's background more closely. Those who commit medical malpractice may be responsible for compensating injured patients.

New Jersey patients and medical facilities will be watching this case as the investigation unfolds. Either way, hospitals will likely review their hiring procedures of medical staff to ensure that patients continue receive highest standard of care.

Source: CNN, "Hepatitis outbreak in New Hampshire strikes fear in 7 other states," July 26, 2012

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