August 29, 2013

Hepatitis C response bill altered

blogger_HCVMandatory employee drug testing eliminated.

CONCORD — While two bills filed in response to the Exeter Hospital hepatitis C crisis are moving forward, one will progress with a drastically different look.

House Bill 597 would have originally required random drug testing for health care employees in the state, but it appears that the random drug testing part of the bill is now being taken out of the equation.

The bill has been in the House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee since the spring, and in that time, the state Department of Health and Human Services and health care facilities have proposed an amendment that would only require the facilities to put in place a drug testing policy and a program for educating employees on drug addiction.

The bill's primary sponsor, state Rep. Tim Copeland, R-Stratham, said it's likely the mandatory drug testing won't happen.

"It will be weeks before anything is final, but it's not leaning in that direction," Copeland said. "It's very disappointing, but you have to work with what you have. It's give and take, sometimes you have to make concessions."

Copeland said he is now focusing his fight on putting penalties in place for health care facilities that don't have policies for drug testing or drug education.

"There has to be some sort of mechanism in place for compliance," he said.

When discussions about the bill resume next month, Copeland said he would listen to the proposals of the health care facilities.

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