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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Bill to speed up newborn screenings heads to Inslee

OLYMPIA – Washington will require hospitals to get newborns tested faster for a wide range of diseases, and get those results back to parents sooner, under a bill sent to Gov. Jay Inslee.

By wide margins, both chambers recently approved new standards for newborn tests and screening for certain rare diseases, requiring samples for the tests be collected within 48 hours of a baby’s birth and delivered to the state Department of Health no more than three days after they were collected. Births that occur outside a hospital are also covered by the bill.

Sponsor Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, said he experienced the delay last year when his daughter was born, and he received the results of a blood test that showed an abnormality 30 days later.

“I can’t explain to you the powerlessness a parent can feel” when getting that news, Riccelli said during debate on the bill. In checking the Internet for information on the abnormalities, he learned that some are best treated within the first two weeks after birth.

Shortly after that, he read about a national report showing some hospitals were slow in reporting results, in part because some waited to collect “batches” of tests to send to the lab. The study found two Spokane-area hospitals had the worst record in the state in 2012 for submitting newborn tests to the department.

The two hospitals, Deaconess and Valley, acknowledged they had problems with the way samples were mailed to the department. They made changes and had near-perfect records in 2013.

The bill requires the state Health Department to compile an annual report of how each hospital complies with deadlines for doing the tests and informing parents, and to list the results on a website.

“I’m not sure how many parents are going to go to the website but … if I was going to have another child, I would definitely check to see their performance rates,” Riccelli said.

The bill had strong Spokane-area support, with Republicans Jeff Holy, Leonard Christian and Joel Kretz and Democrat Timm Ormsby among its eight co-sponsors.

Holy said protection of newborns should be a state priority: “It amazes me we have to have legislation for this.”