Hospital Officials Call for Better Background Checks and National Registry

By Michael Klazema on 8/17/2012

Updates in processes for background checks, in addition to a national registry are some of the changes being called for following a hepatitis C outbreak allegedly caused by a former employee at New Hampshire’s Exeter Hospital. David Kwiatkowski stands accused of infecting at least 30 patients after injecting himself with anesthetic drugs meant for surgery, after which the refilled contaminated syringes were used on unsuspecting patients. Kwiatkowski was previously fired from two other hospitals in Pennsylvania and Arizona. In Arizona he allegedly tested positive for marijuana and cocaine after being found unresponsive in the hospital’s locker room with syringes in 2010.

Although Kwiatkowski was fired from his job in Arizona and the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists received notice of the incident, police charges were never filed. The state of Arizona dropped its investigation after Kwiatkowski moved out of state, so a criminal background check would not reveal the incident. According to Stephanie Drake, executive director of the American Hospital Association’s Human Resources Administration group, her agency guides hospitals in their hiring processes. She said it is recommended for hospitals to perform drug screenings and third-party background checks, among other common screening practices such as reference checks. However, Drake said these are only recommended procedures, and “there’s not any federal legislation that requires organizations to follow all these recommendations.”

Drake notes that there is no perfect system, since policies are sometimes not followed and infractions without criminal charges can be missed by some background checks. However, she recommends also using reference checks done by a third-party in a confidential manner. This is when the names of the references are not attached to what they said, which may lead to more honest answers without worrying about liability. State Representative Lee Quandt is in the midst of organizing legislation efforts in order to address the infection outbreak. One proposal is to require hospitals across the state to drug test all employees. Another possibility at the federal level is a national registry requiring hospitals to report instances of medical technician professional misconduct, similar to existing registries for physicians and nurses.

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