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Drug Screening Law Faces Firing Squad

For prescription drug addicts working in healthcare, every day is like a being child who lives in a candy store. That is, unless they are David Kwiatkowski, who initiated a Hepatitis C outbreak when he swapped some tainted syringes for painkillers last summer at Exeter Hospital.

New Hampshire lawmakers are scratching their heads to determine how to keep this scenario from reoccurring. In the hopes that he may have the answer, Tim Copeland, R-Stratham, sponsored a bill that would require hospital workers to undergo periodic drug testing.

But that’s a violation of the workers’ constitutional rights according to Devon Chaffee, New Hampshire’s ACLU executive director. During a committee meeting this past Tuesday, she claimed that there is no empirical evidence showing that periodical testing will prevent the type of outbreak that happened last summer.

Chaffee was only one of a number of critics that came out to argue against the proposed bill. Among others were nursing home operators, a doctor, NH’s American Civil Liberties Union, and the NH Hospital Association.

Other critics based their arguments on a number of topics ranging from the cost of the bill’s implementation to its unreliability. Many lawmakers considered it an overreaction to the events at Exeter. Still others claim it is an example of the government “overreaching” into the private healthcare sector.

Even the proposed legislation’s wording was criticized for being too vague. Critics were concerned that the fact that Kwiatkowski was first contracted as a traveling medical technician, he may not have been required to undergo testing under the initial draft of the bill.

President of Occupational Drug Testing, LLC, Ryan Quintal, was the only one in Copeland’s corner that day. “In health care, individuals with problem of drug abuse and addiction cannot be ignored,” he said on behalf of the bill.

A number of New Hampshire’s health care leaders are working with Copeland to amend the bill’s wording in order to accommodate many of the concerns brought up by Tuesday’s testimonies. He will present the amended proposal in another hearing on March 5 – this time before the Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee.

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