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Officials Delay Hepatitis C Testing For NH Hospital Patients

By Beth Germano, WBZ-TV
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WBZ-TV's Beth Germano Beth Germano
Emmy award-winning Beth Germano is a general assignment reporter fo...
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EXETER, N.H. (CBS) – Thousands of people already angry and worried about whether they’ve been exposed to hepatitis c at a New Hampshire hospital now have a new frustration. The testing they were supposed to have for the potentially fatal disease is now delayed.

New Hampshire health officials had planned testing clinics this weekend, but now say they are not ready for such a large scale operation. “There’s a fair amount of staff, logistics and supplies that are needed to make sure we can pull it all together in a short period of time,” said Nicholas Toumpas, New Hampshire’s commissioner of Health and Human Services. “To ensure the best and safest experience for the patients coming for testing, the decision was made to delay.”

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At least 3,400 former patients of Exeter Hospital are being told they may have been exposed to infected needles from traveling medical technician David Kwiatkowski, who’s now under federal investigation. Already 30 patients who were treated in the hospital’s cardiac catheterization unit have tested positive for the disease. But officials expanded the scope of the testing to include patients who were in operating rooms and the intensive care unit between April 1, 2011 and May 25 2012 where they say Kwiatkowski also had access.

“You’re telling me you’re going to postpone the test doesn’t give me a warm feeling,” said one former patient at a public meeting held at Exeter, New Hampshire High School.

Health officials tried to reassure patients that the clinics will take place, and plan to meet on Monday to begin the planning. They also urged patients who are anxious to get tested from their own healthcare provider, calling it an unprecedented situation.

“The unknown is the scary part because you know there’s some serious treatment,” said Richard Robbins, who was a patient at the hospital.

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