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Hospital staff with drug addictions may endanger patients

Routine drug testing may be accepted practice in some industries, but a recent article questions why hospital staff members aren’t subject to the same procedures.

The article cites the recent incident of a medical technician who was addicted to the painkiller fentanyl. The technician stole this painkiller from patients awaiting procedures by injecting the prefilled syringe into his own arm, and then refilling the syringe with saline. Unfortunately, the technician also had hepatitis C, which he passed on to some of the victims who were administered the contaminated syringes. At last count, the injury toll was 45 cases. Hepatitis C is also potentially fatal, and two of the victims died after contracting the virus.

The article also notes that the technician had worked in hospitals in various different states, and lied about his job history in order to keep working. Since state regulations are not uniform, the technician was able to evade detection until the hepatitis C outbreak, for which he received 39 years in prison.

Unfortunately, the technician’s story is not an isolated incident. In 2010, a surgical technician was implicated in the very same activity. She was sentenced to 30 years -- but only after she had infected more than a dozen patients. Another man in Florida infected 5 or more patients from the same ruse.

A medical malpractice attorney knows that a certain level of care is expected of doctors for any treatments they provide. However, patients put their trust in every member of a health care team, which may include hospital staff and technicians. If a patient injury occurred because a hospital was negligent in conducting background checks or taking adequate hiring protocols, an attorney might have legal remedies to suggest to the victim.  

Source: New York Times, “Why Aren’t Doctors Drug Tested?” Daniel R. Levinson and Erika T. Broadhurst, March 12, 2014

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