NH Hepatitis C Outbreak: Man Pleads Guilty

A year after his arrest, David Kwiatkowski pled guilty to all charges connected to the Hepatitis C outbreak in New Hampshire’s Exeter Hospital, last summer. Kwiatkowski, a former medical technician, was injecting himself and contaminating syringes that were later used on patients, tampered with consumer products, and fraudulently obtained controlled substances. His choices have infected 47 people in four states with the same strain of Hepatitis C. David Kwiatkowski faces 30-40 years in prison.

What is New Hampshire doing to prevent this from happening again?

House Bill 597 is currently passing through the New Hampshire Legislative system. This bill was created in response to the Exeter outbreak tragedy, and would require all facilities licensed under RSA 151 to conduct random drug testing at least four times per year on all healthcare workers employed.

The healthcare industry is unique due to the large percentage of employees having easy access to controlled substances. Naturally, this puts patients at risk of receiving care from a provider who is under the influence of drugs. Random mandatory drug testing is a way to keep workers and patients equally safe.

What are the concerns with House Bill 597?

The cost to screen is the main concern with passing Bill 597. Every employed healthcare worker would be state mandated for screenings. There are options for the fee associated with screening:

-Municipalities have the option to form a consortium in order to gain pricing inefficiencies.

-Many employees are part of agencies that provide staffing. The individual agencies have the option to cover the cost of testing associated with the employees they represent.

Why pass House Bill 597 and the mandatory drug testing?

Multiple industry studies show 12-20% of healthcare employees abusing drugs or alcohol. Medical Ethics indicates that practitioners are to act in the best interest of all patients. Healthcare employees with drug and alcohol addictions are not putting the patient’s best interest first especially if they are under the influence of drugs and alcohol while at work.

Two of the Medical Ethics Four Principles are beneficence and non-maleficence. Practitioners should act in the best interest of all patients, and they must do no harm while providing care. These principles are impossible to achieve when there are practitioners who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

For more information on drug testing in the Healthcare industry, click here.

To learn about House Bill 597, click here.

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