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House vote: Medical facilities must test workers for controlled substances

Staff Report
January 22. 2014 4:38PM

CONCORD -- The House Wednesday passed legislation requiring licensed medical facilities to adopt policies and procedures for testing workers for controlled substances, as well as for the broader prevention and detection of substance misuse.

The bill was filed last year in response to the Hepatitis C outbreak at Exeter Hospital in 2012, caused by former traveling medical technician David M. Kwiatkowski, who last month was sentenced to 39 years in prison.

Kwiatkowski was found to have infected 45 patients, one of whom died, with Hepatitis C. He was arrested in 2012 and last August pleaded guilty to eight counts of tampering with a consumer product and obtaining controlled substances by fraud in connection with seven of the New Hampshire cases and a fatal Kansas case.

Kwiatkowski infected at least 45 patients with Hepatitis C by stealing syringes filled with the narcotic painkiller fentanyl, intended for patient use, and injected himself with the narcotic. He then refilled the syringes with saline and put them back to be used on patients, even though he knew he had Hepatitis C.

The bill was adopted without debate Wednesday on a roll call vote of 289-48.

The original bill, introduced last year, required licensed facilities to conduct random drug tests on health care workers at least four times a year.

That bill was retained in the Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee, which worked on it throughout the summer and eased the requirements.

The current bill requires facilities to "adopt a policy establishing procedures for prevention, detection, and resolution of controlled substance abuse, misuse, and diversion."

Each facility must establish written procedures that must apply to employees and contractors and "agents of the facility who provide direct or hands on care."

Each facility must designate an employee or team of employees to be responsible for the policy.

The bill says the policy must include education of health care workers, procedures for monitoring the storage, distribution and purchase of controlled substances, procedures for voluntary self-referral by addicted employees and reporting by co-workers.

Drug testing, the bill says, must occur "at a minimum," where "reasonable suspicion exists."

Each policy must also provide for confidentiality and a process for investigating, reporting and resolving, "drug misuse or diversion" and penalties for violation of the policy.

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