I am grateful I had the opportunity participate in the annual New Hampshire Hospital Association meeting, September 22-24 in Bretton Woods.
The staff of NHHA, led by Steve Ahnen, the president, along with the board of directors, is clearly committed to the prevention of drug diversion—in New Hampshire and beyond. NHHA formed the robust Drug Diversion Prevention Task Force. We value their leadership.
At the meeting, I joined state lawmaker Tom Sherman, MD, and Chris Shambarger, a pharmacist who works for the NH state police, on a panel. Tom talked about his work to advance two bills, including the medical technician registry bill, in the Legislature. Chris talked about his day to day work responding to calls, including drug diversion incidents.
Passing the medical techician registry bill early next year in New Hampshire is a necessary next step. I encourage New Hampshire lawmakers to please make this a high priority.
As I mentioned in the September 23 AP article (it was published in about 40 newspapers, including the Washington Post ), we need to think about this from the point of view of staffing agencies that place technicians. They may see red flags, but without a national or even state-level database, how can they know if they’re placing a rogue technician, a drug diverter, in a position where he or she can harm patients?
And, of course, at HONOReform we always think of our work from the point of view of patients and consumers. Serial diverter David Kwiatkowski worked in 18 hospitals in seven states. At least 46 patients are known to have been infected by Kwiatkowski. Hepatitis C is a deadly disease. These patients and their family members are in our thoughts and prayers. On their behalf, we are dedicated to making a difference, so incidents like this will not occur again.
I am pleased to announce that the New Hampshire health department and NADDI (National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators) will join HONOReform to reach out to federal health officials to request a thorough investigation of the prevalent but rarely acknowledged issue of drug diversion. I believe the med tech registry, when developed, can and should become a national model.
The 2011 Viral Hepatitis Action Plan, issued by HHS, includes goals related to prevention of drug diversion. Drug diversion is a healthcare issue—a healthcare systems issue—and must be addressed as such. The time is right to focus on making the goals on drug diversion prevention that were published in 2011 real and actionable.
With the support of leaders throughout New Hampshire, who are dedicated to using their difficult experience to help prevent patient harm in the state and throughout the country, I believe we have a very good starting place. We will rely on the leadership of people throughout New Hampshire—public health officials, lawmakers and patients.
I encourage anyone who is interested in supporting this effort, in New Hampshire and throughout the country, to contact us. Please spread the word. We would like to hear from you—and we will put you to work to help prevent drug diversion.