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March 07. 2013 8:58PM

Committee asks for more study on hospital worker drug test legislation

CONCORD - Lawmakers will study a proposal to require health care workers to be randomly drug tested four times a year instead of acting on it this year.

The House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee voted 15-0 Thursday to retain the bill and let a group formed by the New Hampshire Hospital Association and New Hampshire Medical Society continue its work before lawmakers take action.

House Bill 597 is one of several measures lawmakers are considering in the wake of last year's hepatitis C outbreak at Exeter Hospital, which infected 32 patients.

David Kwiatkowski, a former hospital employee who has hepatitis C, was charged with allegedly stealing painkillers and replacing them with contaminated syringes, exposing patients to the disease.

Several members of the House committee said the bill needs to be reworked.

Committee member Rep. Thomas Sherman, D-Rye, who is a physician, said the only downside to delaying action is safeguards may not be put in place as soon as possible. But he noted the issues are before the steering committee which is developing "best practices" to be followed by hospitals and providers.

"Continued work is ongoing at the state level to make sure these events don't occur again," he said.

At an earlier public hearing on the bill, nursing home operators, physicians and representatives of the New Hampshire Hospital Association and the state American Civil Liberties Union all criticized the bill as expensive and an example of government overreach.

The lone supporter of House Bill 597 was the president of a drug-testing company.

By retaining the bill, lawmakers will have to vote on it during the first three weeks of the 2014 legislative session.


grayno@unionleader.com


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