In light of a recent scandal at a hospital that put employee and patient safety at risk, New Hampshire lawmakers introduced a bill that would institute a statewide mandatory program for drug testing healthcare employees.
Worker charged with spreading hep C
HB 597 was recently brought to the floor of the New Hampshire General Court and would require businesses licensed by the state as an accredited healthcare facility to randomly drug test all employees.
The proposed legislation was largely a reaction to a scandal that rocked the state after Dave Kwiatkowski, an employee at the Exeter Hospital, was charged with infecting 32 patients with hepatitis C. Kwiatkowski faces 98 years in prison and $3.5 million in fines after prosecutors alleged he spread the liver-destroying disease to patients after he used needles containing medication to get high.
According to prosecutors , Kwiatkowski was never drug tested by his employer. As such, New Hampshire legislators introduced the law, which would mandate healthcare employers to randomly drug test each employee at least four times a year. Firms would then be required to immediately report failures to the commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Failure to conduct screenings and report employees who tested positive for illicit drug use would result in suspension of licensing and the implementation of corrective measures as decided by the state. If approved, the law would take effect January 1, 2014.
Opponents wary of scope, financial burden
Several healthcare business owners and advocates weighed in on the proposed legislation, and while many acknowledged the bill confronts a growing challenge for healthcare operators, they feared the lack of a definition for a healthcare employee and the cost of testing were problematic.
The one-page bill does not clearly define what a healthcare employee is or what his or her duties entail.
Gary Cahoon, who operates a retirement home in the state, said if he were to test all of his employees four times each year, as the law would require, it could cost 1 percent of his total profits. Cahoon likened the bill to successful surgery that a patient died in the middle of, meaning it's well-intentioned but ultimately ineffective or harmful
The state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) also decried the bill, saying random drug testing was an invasion of employee privacy. The New Hampshire Hospital Association has also not taken an official stance on the bill.
While the bill is being debated, New Hampshire healthcare firms that want to prepare themselves no matter the legislative outcome can equip their operations with comprehensive drug screening tools through a partnership with an HR service provider.