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Patient Privacy Versus Public Health In Court Hearing

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A judge heard arguments today in a case involving patient medical records at Exeter Hospital. At issue is just how much access the state needs to investigate an outbreak of Hepatitis C.

Back in August, Exeter Hospital filed a protective order arguing the state’s broad request for patient records violates both state and federal privacy laws.

In Merrimack Superior court, lawyers for the State countered, saying they have a duty to investigate exactly what happened inside the hospital, and that means they need complete access.

"From the very beginning, we have made it clear that we will not leave any stone unturned until we make sure there is nobody else, or no other places in this hospital that may pose a risk to the public," says Jose Montero, the state's Director of Public Health.

Former hospital employee David Kwiatkowski  is accused of reusing needles inside Exeter’s Cardiac unit, infecting at least 32 patients with Hepatitis C.

Scott O’Connell, who represents the hospital, says the State can’t just come in and look through records. The law, he says, makes it clear that they are required to make specific requests for sensitive patient records.

"So do your job and tell us what you need. And we’ll do our job, which is give you the information."

It’s now Judge Richard McNamara’s job to determine how the investigation will proceed.

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.

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