Quick testing of newborn blood samples to be noted

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Department of Health plans this week to start sending hospital administrators reports showing how quickly blood samples collected from newborns are submitted to the department laboratory in Little Rock for testing.

Department spokesman Kerry Krell told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (http://bit.ly/JoQnGZ ) that the department decided to start sending the reports after a report last month that thousands of samples a year arrive at laboratories five or more days after being collected. The American College of Medical Genetics recommends a delivery time of three days.

The Arkansas Health Department’s goal is to get samples to the lab within 48 hours after they are collected.

The department tests the blood samples for 28 disorders and officials say early diagnosis often allows treatment to start in time to save a baby’s life or prevent permanent damage.

“It’s very important for hospitals to understand how important this is,” Krell said.

Bo Ryall, a spokesman for the Arkansas Hospital Association, told the newspaper that the reports sent to administrators will help them review their hospitals’ practices.

“Hospitals want to be responsive,” Ryall said. “They want to work more closely with the Health Department to improve this process, make it more efficient and get the samples to the lab in a timely manner.”

The health department laboratory is closed on weekends and state holidays, including Thanksgiving, Christmas and Christmas Eve, and on the day after Thanksgiving, when state offices are closed by a governor’s proclamation.

A department-run courier service that delivers samples from county health units to the laboratory does not operate when the laboratory is closed.

Expanding the laboratory’s hours to include weekends and holidays is “a challenge we’re trying to figure out,” Krell said.

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