Testing Flaw Let Medical Workers With History of Drug Misuse Stay on Job
A testing flaw in a program that screens health workers with known histories of substance misuse allowed workers who tested positive to continue practicing, the Los Angeles Times reports.
California contracts with Virginia-based Maximus to administer diversion programs that screen medical professionals who have a history of substance misuse. Maximus runs the diversion program for:
- Licensed nurses;
- Veterinarians; and
- Other medical professionals.
Maximus subcontracted its drug testing to Pennsylvania-based First Lab, which subcontracted the screenings to Kansas-based Clinical Reference Lab. From December 2009 until August 2010, Clinical Reference Lab evaluated its testing results using a lesser standard than required.
According to Maximus, 146 individuals received "unconfirmed positives" for a banned substance but were not further examined because they passed the lesser standard. The standard that should have been used requires health workers with substance misuse problems to fully abstain from drugs and alcohol, state officials said.
In June, an audit by the California Department of Consumer Affairs found that Maximus failed to report positive drug test results in a timely fashion.
The audit also determined that the company does not adequately record whether medical workers comply with the rules of the program.
Paul Riches -- deputy director for enforcement and compliance at the Department of Consumer Affairs -- said the department is not aware of any patients who were harmed as a result of the drug testing lapses.
Maximus is paying for new tests and reviewing cases for the workers who received unconfirmed positives on the drug screenings (Garrison, Los Angeles Times, 10/8).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.