Oklahoma's public health lab is 'crumbling from the inside out'

Oklahoma's public health lab has sat in the same building for more than 40 years. If the state does not build a new lab, it could lose accreditation and thus, not be able to provide thousands of tests to hospitals and county health departments throughout the state.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Modified: January 19, 2014 at 10:00 am •  Published: January 19, 2014

“It's not the oldest state lab in the country, but it is certainly ‘old' in terms of the standards, instrumentation and overall design requirements for a major reference laboratory that handles surveillance, detection and response to a range of health threats,” DeVoll said in an email.

A critical point

Oklahoma's public health lab is accredited through the College of American Pathologists, an organization that has led lab accreditation for more than 50 years with more than 7,500 accredited laboratories in 50 countries.

Thus far, Oklahoma's lab has been cited twice during accreditation reviews for not having enough space.

Dr. Richard Gomez, chair of the College of American Pathologists' Council on Accreditation, said the organization's inspectors use extensive checklists when they visit a laboratory renewing or seeking accreditation.

Whether the lab has adequate space is part of that.

“Should a laboratory not meet these requirements, a written response and supporting documentation demonstrating compliance would be required before granting accreditation,” Gomez said in an email. “The corrective action must be approved by the College of American Pathologists' Accreditation Committee before accreditation is granted.”

The next accreditation team comes to Oklahoma in February 2015. If the lab is cited again, they will have to produce a plan that shows they're actively trying to resolve the problem.

Health department officials have started work on a plan for what they will do if they're cited, said Toni Frioux, the state Health Department deputy commissioner for prevention and preparedness.

Frioux said a new public health lab would cost Oklahoma an estimated $41 million. It costs $13 million to run the current lab, with most funding coming from the federal government.

The state Health Department would pay for the new lab through a capital improvement bond, which the state Legislature would have to approve.

“That's not to say that the quality of our laboratory services isn't very good,” Frioux said. “But we have reached a critical point where we really need to move into more modern facilities.”

by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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