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Victim Of Hepatitis C Outbreak Demands Changes At Exeter Hospital

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BOSTON (CBS) – A woman, who went to Exeter Hospital to get well, is instead now infected with hepatitis C. She now wonders whether she’ll live long enough to meet her grandchildren.

Kathy, who is 61-years-old, has diabetes and was in the hospital for kidney dialysis three times a week. That brought her to Exeter Hospital’s cardiac catheterization lab in recent months, where she’s now been confirmed as one of at least 19 patients who contracted the potentially deadly liver virus during their visit.

“My daughter just got married,” says Kathy. “She’s going to have children in the future, who knows if I’ll be around for them.”

State health workers broke the bad news to Kathy two weeks ago, but she hasn’t heard a peep from the hospital.

A hospital staffer is suspected of stealing and injecting painkillers and then using the dirty syringes on patients.

“They should be able to protect their patients,” says Kathy.

So, as the New Hampshire Attorney General investigates, Kathy is suing Exeter for “reckless and gross negligence,” she says to force hospital changes in training and oversight, not to get rich.

“I’m not looking for millions and millions of dollars, but I’m on Social Security, it would be nice to have a little nest egg that I can lean on.”

But with hundreds of patients yet to be tested, she fears the hep c debacle at Exeter is now a snowball rolling downhill. “It’s just devastating,” she says.

Kathy is now recovering from a MRSA infection, which her lawyer says she also got at Exeter.

The state now says anyone who was a cath lab patient there, after October 2010, should be tested for hep-c.

Frustrations Grow Among Those Exposed

Things are getting even worse for some patients who may have been exposed to hepatitis C at Exeter Hospital’s catheter lab. At a public meeting tonight, some told New Hampshire Health officials they are getting called back to be tested for the disease a second time.

WBZ-TV’s Christina Hager reports

“They said my blood sample had expired and they needed me to come back in and give another sample,” says heart patient Terry Murphy, who refuses to go back a third time. “I just have to act like I have it for the rest of my life, so Exeter Hospital has given me a death sentence.”

He’s among hundreds who have been called to be tested. Health Department officials say an employee infected with hepatitis C likely spread the disease by sneaking pain killers and returning dirty syringes to be used again on patients. So far 20 patients have tested positive.

The head of New Hampshire’s Health Department says an Exeter Hospital employee did test positive for hepatitis C, and that patient is not working there now.

That does not calm Murphy’s fears. “I’ve given pretty strict orders that if it’s a matter of me laying on the side of the road dying and going to Exeter Hospital, leave me there.”

WBZ-TV’s Christina Hager contributed to this report.

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