That's what happened from the time the investigation started in May until July, when the hospital abruptly stopped cooperating, she said.
"In the past two months, Exeter Hospital has made a concerted effort to disrupt the investigation," she said. "Exeter Hospital is a business, and there are good business reasons for them to want no new cases (of hepatitis C) and no further investigation of this matter."
Asked why the state couldn't request individual patient records by name, Herrick said she was concerned that hospital officials would tamper with them before providing copies. O'Connell called both that suggestion and the notion that the hospital was obstructing the investigation outrageous.
"I've said at least five times today, we will give them the record of every patient they identify. And it's just malarkey, to quote our sitting vice president -- that they can't tell us the names of people we've already given them information about."
Merrimack County Superior Court Judge Richard McNamara, who took the matter under advisement, compared the situation with law enforcement wiretapping. In those cases, the person in charge of secretly recording a telephone conversation has an obligation to stop the recording and minimize the invasion of privacy if the conversation turns to a medical issue or something else unrelated to the criminal activity being investigated, he said.
O'Connell rejected that comparison and said the hospital should not have to "rely on the good graces of our esteemed public employees that they're not going to violate (patient) privacy."
Kwiatkowski, a traveling medical worker whom prosecutors describe as a "serial infector," was hired in Exeter in April 2011 after working in 18 hospitals in Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania.
He moved from hospital to hospital despite having been fired twice over allegations of drug use and theft, and thousands of patients in those states are being tested to see if they, too, were infected with hepatitis C, a sometimes life-threatening virus. A handful of patients in Kansas have been found to carry the same strain Kwiatkowski carries.
Kwiatkowski, who has told authorities he did not steal or use drugs, has pleaded not guilty to illegally obtaining drugs and tampering with a consumer product.