Hospitals may need safety protocols to guard against drug abuse

For readers unfamiliar with drug diversion, the phrase refers to the misappropriation of medical drugs for recreational or unintended uses.

In the case of health workers, drug diversion can present a risk of serious personal injury to hundreds or even thousands of patients, depending on how long the prescription drug abuse went undetected.

In several notable examples, health care workers who were self-injecting patient medications in syringes and replacing them with saline caused hepatitis C outbreaks. If a doctor were to perform a surgery while impaired by prescription drugs or other substances, even a routine procedure might result in tragedy.

Unfortunately, a recent article suggests that many health care facilities may not have adequate safety protocols for preventing drug diversion. Simple steps like instituting more stringent record keeping protocols and installing security cameras might go a long way toward ensuring patient safety. Yet health care facilities may lack even these basic safeguards.

What’s even more disturbing than the lack of safeguards is the way that many facilities may handle a health care professional caught in the act of drug diversion. In some instances, an offending health care professional may not even encounter criminal consequences for his or her behavior.

An attorney that has experience in medical malpractice claims knows that the investigation into injury causation may require an extensive look not only at the specific procedure or medication administered, but also at general hospital procedures. For example, health care professionals must keep diligent medical records and perform a thorough intake of a patient before prescribing a treatment. Hospitals may be found liable for negligence if they fail to require such protocols for their admitted patients.

Source: USA Today, “Doctors, medical staff on drugs put patients at risk,” Peter Eisler, April 16, 2014

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