- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 29, 2014

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - Medical technicians like the one who stole drugs from Exeter Hospital and infected patients with hepatitis C would be required to register with the state under a bill given preliminary approval Wednesday by the New Hampshire House.

The bill would create a board to register health care workers who are not otherwise already licensed or registered and who have access to both drugs and patients. Hospitals would be required to report disciplinary actions to the board, which could perform its own investigations of wrongdoing.

The bill, which was sent to the House Ways and Means Committee for further review, is a response to David Kwiatkowski, a former traveling technician who was sentenced in December to 39 years in prison. He had worked as a cardiac technologist in seven states before being hired in New Hampshire in 2011, despite being fired numerous times over drug allegations.

Medical technicians aren’t as closely regulated as doctors or nurses, and there is no nationwide database of misconduct or disciplinary actions against them, as there is for physicians. While some states require certain technicians to be licensed, four of the states where Kwiatkowski worked, including New Hampshire, don’t license any of them.

“This is a simple, commonsense registration bill which will allow the state of New Hampshire to know who the technicians are who are working in their hospitals,” said state Rep. Lucy Weber, a Walpole Democrat. “It will further enhance patient safety by requiring hospitals to report incidents of discipline for these people who are often employed on a transient basis.”

Rep. Carol McGuire, R-Epsom, spoke in opposition to the bill, saying it was unnecessary because the House passed a bill last week that would require health care facilities to develop and implement drug-free workplace policies and to test employees for drugs if there is a reasonable suspicion of drug use. She also argued that the fee that technicians would have to pay, which isn’t specified in the bill, would deter people from entering the profession.

“Putting in this requirement to go register, pay the fee, the criminal background check and all that, instead of relying on the supervision of their employer to make sure they don’t wander through the halls picking up syringes of painkillers, is going to interfere with the job growth in these fast-growing professions,” she said. “We should not be putting new and probably futile barriers to entry in that case. We should insist that hospitals and other health care facilities do their jobs.”

Kwiatkowski, who admitted stealing painkillers and replacing them with saline-filled syringes tainted with his blood, pleaded guilty in August to 16 federal drug charges. Since his arrest in July 2012, 46 people in New Hampshire, Maryland, Kansas and Pennsylvania have been diagnosed with the same strain of the hepatitis C virus he carries, and authorities say the disease played a role in one woman’s death. Kwiatkowski also worked in Michigan, New York, Arizona and Georgia.



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