On September 10, New Hampshire lawmakers are scheduled to finalize amendments on two bills aimed at protecting hospital patients from being exposed to infectious diseases such as hepatitis C. Both bills were sponsored by Rep. Tim Copeland (D-Exeter) and are directed at allegations that a medical technician who had worked at Exeter Hospital exposed more than 40 people in some 17 hospitals across the country to hepatitis C. The technician, reportedly 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.
Under the first bill, health facilities would be required to randomly test employees for drugs a minimum of four times annually. Some groups affected by the legislation have requested changes to this bill. The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services and health care providers, for example, have asked that it be amended. They are requesting that the drug testing requirement be replaced with the following: implementation of a policy that outlines drug testing procedures, educational programs about drug addiction for workers, and the implementation of proper monitoring and storage procedures for controlled substances.
Proponents of the amendment say random drug testing does not effectively identify on-the-job drug abusers and express concerns about the expense of testing to employers and due process for employees after they have had positive test results.
The second bill would be the prelude to establishing a national medical technician registry similar to those that exist for doctors and nurses. A state board would oversee the licenses of medical technicians. The registry could be in the form of a searchable national database. The hope is that other states would also move to establish searchable databases.
The ultimate objective of the medical technician registry is that it would foster accountability, proponents say, and it would encourage health care workers to report suspicious behavior and supervisors to follow through on these reports.