Oklahoma State Well being Division briefly outsources new child screening

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The State Health Department decided last fall to move its laboratories from OKC to Stillwater. The State Health Commissioner is now saying they are sending their newborn screening tests out of the state for processing for at least the next month. That has asked some health professionals why.

State Health officials say the move is to keep up with national standards as they readjust their laboratory procedures after moving from Oklahoma City to Stillwater.

Opponents say that sending the tests out of the state is due to bad decisions.

“They were using an outdated standard that we should have deviated earlier,” said Dr. Lance Frye, State Commissioner of Health.

State Health Commissioner speaks about recently signed contracts to temporarily submit newborn screening tests to Perkin-Elmer Genomics in Pennsylvania.

The decision to move is said to have been made by the new laboratory manager during an audit.

“During the review, a decision was made to refer testing to Perkin-Elmer Genetics, the nation’s leading provider of newborn screening,” said Dr. Michael Kayser, OSDH laboratory director.

Officials say Oklahoma is one of only three states that don’t test effectively for the TT1 metabolic disorder. They say they are also taking the step of increasing the number of tests done during screening from 57 to 61.

“It’s good to see we’re adding a few more tests to this panel, but again, that should be something we should be able to test for here in our state,” said Dr. George Monks, President of the Oklahoma State Medical Association.

The head of the State Medical Associations says other tests, like those done for Ecoli, have been outsourced to other state laboratories since the move.

“We sent these lab tests to Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and doctors are getting letters saying there may be delays,” Monks said.

According to state health officials, outsourcing these newborn tests will cut turnaround time from 5-7 days to 3-4 days and will actually cost less to process per test.

They say the people currently working for the state laboratory in that department will not be fired.

Commissioner Frye said the State Office of Accountability was used to review the decision.

“We don’t want to take any chances, we want to make sure we’re using the latest standards and have the best possible protocols for Oklahomans,” said Frye.

However, opponents of this decision say it is a fallout to move the laboratory from OKC to Stillwater.

“They lost a lot of their lab technicians and a lot of institutional knowledge, so more and more lab tests are being done in another state because we can’t do those lab tests here in Oklahoma, and it’s really sad,” said Monks.

Commissioner Frye says this move isn’t planned until late April, when the Oklahoma labs should be recalibrated to run all the necessary tests in-house.

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