Associated Press (08.16.12)
The recent case of a medical technologist accused of infecting patients with hepatitis C at a New Hampshire hospital could build support for the creation of consistent national standards for such workers, advocates say.
Arrested in July, cardiovascular technologist David Kwiatkowski is accused of a drug-diversion scheme that contaminated syringes used on patients at Exeter Hospital. Before his arrest, Kwiatkowski worked at 18 hospitals in seven other states, moving from job to job despite being fired twice for allegations of drug use and theft. Lack of regulation, poor communication, and deception helped cover his trail.
“Unbelievable,” said US Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.), lead sponsor of a bill that would require medical imaging and radiation workers to meet uniform national standards in order for employing hospitals to receive Medicare funding.
Education and certification standards vary in the 45 states that regulate at least one type of job involving medical imaging or radiation therapy. The American Society of Radiologic Technologists for years has lobbied for federal legislation like the bill under consideration. Sens. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) introduced their version in July, with Barrow one of 130 House co-sponsors. Congress has failed to pass any previous versions, despite no significant opposition, said Christine Lung, ASRT’s vice president of government relations.
“I think it’s going to take situations like Mr. Kwiatkowski ... to really make the public sit up and take notice,” Lung said.
“While medical licensing laws and regulations have traditionally been developed at the state level, Congress has an important oversight role in ensuring patient safety across the nation,” said John Billings, chief of staff for Rep. Charles Bass (R-N.H.). Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) said she would consider legislative remedies, but that hospitals bear the ultimate responsibility to prevent such incidents by conducting thorough background checks and strictly controlling access to narcotics.