Concord Monitor (08.07.2013)
New Hampshire lawmakers are considering two bills sponsored by Rep. Tim Copeland (D-Exeter) that aim to protect patients from exposure to infectious diseases like hepatitis C. Both bills responded to the case of the medical technician who allegedly transmitted hepatitis C to more than 40 people in at least 17 hospitals nationwide. The technician, who was addicted to pain medications, allegedly diverted some pain medication for his personal use and administered the remainder to hospital patients in six states before coming to New Hampshire.
The first bill would require health facilities to conduct random employee drug tests at least four times each year. The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services and health care providers supported an amendment that would remove random drug testing and only require providers to adopt policies that establish procedures for drug testing, drug addiction education for health care workers, and “proper monitoring and storage of controlled substances.” Proponents of the amended bill stated that random drug testing is ineffective in identifying on-the-job drug abusers and raised concerns about employers’ expense and employees’ due process after positive test results.
The second bill would create a state board to oversee licenses of medical technicians and a registry of the licenses, which could be available in a national database. Legislators hoped other states also would create similar searchable databases. The medical technician registry would resemble an existing national registry for doctors and nurses.
Establishing the medical technician registry would encourage a “culture of accountability” in which health care workers felt “protected and supported” in reporting suspicious behavior, and supervisors would pursue investigations. The accused medical technician was able to move from hospital to hospital because he did not list on his applications the positions from which he had been fired or had trouble.
Subcommittees are scheduled to finalize bill amendments on September 10.