Hopkins OKs 2nd drug-testing plan New doctors now face mandatory screening.

December 10, 1990|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,Evening Sun Staff

In an Evening Sun story Monday about a new drug-testing plan for physicians at Johns Hopkins Hospital, it was incorrectly reported that Dr. Kenneth T. Johnson is head of the department of neurology. In fact, Johnson holds a doctoral degree and is professor of neuroscience at the School of Medicine.

Also, new faculty members at the Hopkins School of Medicine will be not be subject to the new drug-testing policy that begins Jan. 1 unless they engage in patient care at the hospital.

The Evening Sun regrets the errors.

After wrestling nearly a year with the problem, Johns Hopkins Hospital has adopted a plan for mandatory drug testing of new physicians.


The announcement by the hospital's Medical Board and approval by the institution's Board of Trustees follow a yearlong debate over mandatory drug screening and patient protection vs. constitutionally guaranteed privacy issues.

The hospital's 30-member Medical Board -- made up of chiefs of all medical services, other hospital officials and representatives of interns and residents -- accepted plans from a working committee to limit testing "at this time" to new applicants for the medical staff, defined as physicians with privileges to admit patients to the hospital. The newest policy is effective Jan. 1.

Hopkins already has adopted plans to test all new hospital employees, including nurses, beginning Jan. 1. Long-standing policies calling for "for-cause" drug testing of any member of the hospital staff continue unchanged, officials said.

Carol Pearson, a Hopkins spokeswoman, said today that physicians on the faculty of the university are not affected by any drug-testing policy.

Last week, the board agreed that the testing should be conducted for a "limited" period. The board said the decision is the first step toward eventual implementation of plans along the lines of those originally adopted last February.

But hospital officials have not released a timetable for that plan.

In February, Dr. Hamilton Moses 3rd, the hospital's vice president for medical affairs, said 20 percent to 50 percent of the 750 doctors up for reappointment in July would be randomly selected for testing.

It was believed then that Hopkins would be the first hospital in the nation to attempt to adopt mandatory physician testing.

The screening would have targeted alcohol, cocaine, opiates, tranquilizers, barbiturates and marijuana. The new plan includes those drugs plus PCP.

The board now has asked for a more intensive educational effort to increase acceptance of across-the-board testing and to assure that counseling and rehabilitation programs developed for medical staff members are fully organized.

Testing for interns and residents will be phased in "sometime" after those educational efforts and a continuing discussion of the testing issue, officials said.

The February plan ran into heavy opposition from the Johns Hopkins Medical School Council, whose members objected to the testing "without reasonable cause."

In July, Dr. Kenneth T. Johnson, representing the council, said the policy "violates fundamental principles of respect for the dignity and privacy of the individual."

Johnson said the arguments for testing at Hopkins were "either very weak or they have not been articulated clearly" and the policy created "severe dangers to Johns Hopkins, its integrity . . . its reputation."

"Would such a thing happen at Harvard or Oxford?" asked Johnson, head of the department of neurology.

That same month, Hopkins officials cited "mechanical issues" and delayed the controversial policy until fall, when discussions continued that led to the compromise.

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