Legislation now targets medical workers who fail, refuse drug tests

NASHVILLE, TN (WJHL) – Legislation aimed at preventing drug-addicted healthcare workers from putting Tennesseans at risk could move forward next week, but not before lawmakers file an amendment.

Sen. Rusty Crowe (R), District 3, filed the legislation after our investigation uncovered disciplinary delays. His legislation would require the state to take emergency action and suspend a healthcare worker’s license when that person fails a drug test without proof of a legitimate prescription.

An amendment to the bill would target those who refuse drug tests.

“Employers of licensed health care professionals would now be required to report the failure or refusal to take a drug test to the Health Department and the appropriate board,” Senate Health and Welfare Committee Research Analyst Logan Grant said. “When that report is received by the Department of Health, if there are aggravating circumstances that demonstrate the provider is an immediate threat to their patients, the Chief Medical Officer will immediately suspend their license. If there are no additional aggravating factors beyond the drug test, the provider must either immediately submit to and comply with a drug treatment program or lose their license.”

If the bill passes, Sen. Crowe’s staff believes the legislation could be the first of its kind nationwide.

“Once this amendment is worked out, we will have a good balance between protecting patients and compelling providers with addictions to seek the necessary treatment,” Sen. Crowe said. “Previously, we had to rely on complaints to restrict a provider’s license because there was no mandate to report. With this amendment, for the first time we will hopefully identify providers with drug addictions before an incident occurs which could harm a patient.”

In instances where hospitals did file complaints with the state, our investigation found cases where nurses kept their licenses and found new jobs during the state’s lengthy investigation.

The Senate Health and Welfare Committee is expected to debate the bill Monday.

Copyright WJHL 2017. All rights reserved.

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