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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane County hospitals were worst in state for sending newborn blood samples on time

Two hospitals in Spokane County had the worst record last year in Washington for sending newborn screening samples on time to the state’s specialized lab.

At Valley Hospital, more than 28 percent of all newborn blood samples – 288 in all – arrived at the lab later than the five days mandated by state law. And at Deaconess Hospital, almost 18 percent of samples – 478 in all – arrived late to the lab.

Both hospitals acknowledged there had been problems with how the samples were mailed. The hospitals have since made changes and are reporting near-perfect compliance for 2013.

“The processes we were using for mailing these samples were not acceptable nor to our high quality standards,” hospital spokeswoman Sasha Weiler said. “We immediately took action, putting better processes in place to ensure that specimens were received by the state lab within the standard of five days or less after collection.”

At Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, about 3.7 percent of samples were late – about 165 of the 4,424 sent to the lab in 2012. And at Providence Holy Family Hospital, 2.8 percent of samples arrived to the lab late – 42 of the 1,494 sent last year.

Taken altogether, hospitals in Washington were late sending samples about 2 percent of the time. That’s 2,076 late of the 107,433 screening samples sent to the state lab.

At Kootenai Medical Center in Coeur d’Alene, 6.2 percent of the samples were late: 91 out of 1,466 samples.

“Everyone in our organization understands the importance of these shipments,” Weiler said. “We recognize the important part we play in getting timely test results to parents. We regret any concern these delays may have caused and are committed to resolving our system to ensure consistent processing and delivery of quality health care.”

Michael Glass, director of the newborn screening program for the Washington state Department of Health, said his office tracks compliance and works with hospitals when there’s a noticeable uptick in late samples.

The Health Department opened its specialized lab in 1977. All hospitals are required to send the samples to the state to ensure the important tests are completed in hopes of warding off tragedies. Glass said the state’s lab tests for 28 different disorders.

Glass said Washington hasn’t had the kind of tragedies from tardy samples that were reported in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s investigation.

“The stories of those babies were shocking,” he said. “We can’t have that. Anywhere.”

The investigative report already has hospitals and health departments across the nation revisiting their procedures – from collection by nurses to shipping by mailroom clerks – to ensure the critical samples are handled with care and speed.

“My sincere hope is that this scrutiny helps make a difference,” he said.

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