A Pennsylvania court rules employees’ drug tests are not confidential
A nurse who worked at a Pennsylvania hospital was fired because of a failed drug test. After being notified of the firing, the state’s Board of Nursing wanted to investigate and subpoenaed the hospital for the drug test results. The hospital, stating confidentiality, refused. The Board sued. Was this information confidential? Are outsiders entitled to see these results?
According to the Pennsylvania courts, the answer is yes. As reported by the Legal Intelligencer, a three-judge panel found the state’s Drug and Alcohol Abuse Control Act – which bars disclosure of patients’ substance abuse and addiction treatment records to third parties – does not apply to employee drug and alcohol test results.
The ruling directly contradicts a 1999 federal ruling protecting the confidentiality of patient information. Pennsylvania’s court makes a differentiation between a patient under care and an employee taking a drug test. In the case of the hospital, the court found that the employee was not under medical care and was not a “patient” in a drug counselling program so there’s no protection of confidential medical information.
Department of Health Asks for Patient Input on Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Program
Harrisburg, PA – Pennsylvania Department of Health Secretary Dr. Karen Murphy today encouraged Pennsylvanians who will be eligible for the Medical Marijuana Program to participate in a short survey to help ensure the program will meet their needs. The survey will be available on the department’s website until 5:00 PM on Friday, November 18.
“If you are a Pennsylvania resident and a patient with a serious medical condition, or a family member interested in becoming a caregiver for a patient, we want your feedback to ensure that we are developing a top quality program that provides relief to those in pain,” Secretary Murphy said. “The goal of the Medical Marijuana Program is to provide patients with serious medical conditions the help they need to cope. Throughout this process, we have been asking for patient feedback to develop a refined, patient-centered program.”
In addition to asking for input on the Medical Marijuana Program, Secretary Murphy recently announced that the department has hired Latrisha “Lolly” Bentch of Camp Hill, Cumberland County, as the new patient liaison in the Office of Medical Marijuana.
“The patient liaison’s responsibilities include ensuring medical marijuana patients, caregivers, and advocacy groups have representation and access to the program during and after its development,” said Secretary Murphy.
Bentch’s responsibilities include ensuring medical marijuana patients, caregivers, and advocacy groups have representation and access to the program during and after its development. By listening to those who will be directly affected by the program, the department is constantly working to make sure the program will work as effectively as possible. The patient liaison position is the first of its kind across all medical marijuana programs in the United States, and will serve as a model for other states.
The medical marijuana program was signed into law by Governor Tom Wolf on April 17, 2016. Since that time, the department has:
· Completed the Safe Harbor temporary guidelines and Safe Harbor Letter application process, as well as approved 115 applications to date;
· Released public surveys to aid in the development of temporary regulations for growers/processors and dispensaries/laboratories;
· Developed the Medical Marijuana Physician Workgroup, which is scheduled to meet again on November 28; and
· Released a Request for Information for Electronic Tracking IT solutions for the tracking of medical marijuana.
Full implementation of the program is expected to take between 18 and 24 months. The program will provide access to medical marijuana for patients who are Pennsylvania residents under a physician’s care for the treatment of a serious medical condition as defined by Act 16.
Questions about the medical marijuana program can be emailed to
Information is also available at www.health.pa.gov.
MEDIA CONTACT: April Hutcheson, 717-787-1783
The commonwealth’s first Medical Marijuana Physician Workgroup will be convened within the next few weeks, announced Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) Sec. Karen Murphy on July 19, 2016. The Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED) will have representation on the workgroup.
“Physicians and their medical expertise are crucial to the success of Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Program, and we will continue to engage them throughout the process to ensure their medical expertise is heard on behalf of patients,” said Sec. Murphy.
Read the DOH’s press release for a full list of organizations participating in the workgroup.
Sec. Murphy also addressed other issues concerning the state’s Medical Marijuana Program. Highlights include:
- DOH will be releasing a survey requesting feedback concerning the development of temporary regulations pertaining to physicians. The survey will be available to the public via the DOH’s website.
- Temporary regulations for growers and processers are expected to be completed and published by the end of August 2016.
- The remainder of temporary regulations will be released sequentially for dispensaries/laboratories, physicians, patients, and caregivers. Temporary regulations will be in place for two years from the date of publication.
PAMED Resources for Physicians and Patients
PAMED’s series of Quick Consult publications can help answer physician and patient questions on Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana law:
- General information
- Highlights of the medical marijuana law
- Physician information
- Upcoming process
- Safe Harbor Provision
PAMED will provide updates, when available, on the Medical Marijuana Physician Workgroup via the Daily Dose email newsletter.
Physician Information for Medical Marijuana April 15, 2016
Author: Michael Siget, JD, MPA, Legislative and Regulatory Counsel, PAMED