In a recent article, The Case for Background Screening, Tom Fields explores the recent tragedy of the serial Hepatitis C contamination at a NH hospital. Many people were infected with the liver-destroying blood disease, with perhaps more to come. In this case, a medical technician is accused of infecting at least 30 patients by allegedly injecting himself with syringes filled with the powerful painkiller fentanyl, and then replacing them with another liquid and returning them to be used on unsuspecting patients. And considering the fact that the suspect worked as a traveling technician in as many as 13 hospitals, in at least 8 states, the web of his contamination could be much larger.
What the Hospitals Should Have Known
The article asks the obvious but inevitable question, “How could this happen!?” Especially considering that he was fired from two different hospitals, in 2008 and 2010, respectively. In the most recent termination, from a hospital in Arizona, he was found “in the facility’s men’s locker room unresponsive and in possession of syringes and needles. Upon this discovery, hospital personnel following hospital protocol acted quickly to have him tested and treated in the emergency room, where a drug test was administered and he tested positive for the presence of both cocaine and marijuana,” the hospital said.
Apparently, the local police department was notified and the suspect’s contract with the temporary staffing agency that placed him at the hospital was terminated in 2012.
Where Was the Background Screening?
This leads us to the risk management gorilla in the room. How could such egregious offenses be overlooked or missed completely by a hospital? Was no background check done at all? The information was presumably out there to discover, from the staffing agency, the hospital, and even the state. So what happened?
What Happens When You Assume…
It appears what happened is a lesson for all organizations. And, in this particular case, a fierce lesson for dealing with temporary employees. The hospital had assumed their staffing agency had screened properly. Obviously, they hadn’t. At all. And in the same way you can’t assume that your contractor has properly checked your critical hires. You must ensure it. Otherwise, horrible outcomes like these are a possibility, with resulting sicknesses, possible deaths, and certain lawsuits.
To read the entire article, click here.