CONCORD, N.H. (Legal Newsline) - New Hampshire Attorney General Michael Delaney filed pleadings on Tuesday in response to Exeter Hospital's request to prevent the Department of Public Health Services from further looking into a hepatitis C outbreak.
On May 15, Exeter Hospital reported a cluster of recently diagnosed hepatitis C cases to the Department of Public Health Services. DPHS was successful in determining a potential source of the outbreak.
Exeter Hospital allegedly began asking the DPHS for facts it learned as the department looked into the matter. After DPHS said it was prohibited from sharing such facts under state and federal law, Exeter Hospital allegedly started resisting requests the DPHS made to find out more about the outbreak.
Exeter Hospital filed a request for a protective order to deny the DPHS access to patient records and staff interviews. Exeter Hospital claimed that the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act prevented the facility from releasing the information to the department.
Delaney's office filed an objection to the motion for protective order on Tuesday, stating that the DPHS must have access to the hospital's records and employees to protect the health of New Hampshire residents from the outbreak and future outbreaks of disease.
"Exeter Hospital's request for a protective order should be denied because rather than limiting access, state and federal laws expressly provide Public Health access to patient records," Delaney said.
Hepatitis C is a viral infection that can cause deadly liver disease. While some people who develop the disease have no symptoms at all, others may end up with a chronic liver infection that can result in liver failure, liver cirrhosis, liver cancer or death.