Group To Spend $9M To Improve Medical Lab Inspection System
The College of American Pathologists, which accredits 6,000 medical laboratories worldwide, on Thursday announced plans to spend $9 million to improve the system used to inspect the facilities and to begin to conduct unannounced inspections, the Baltimore Sun reports. The announcement followed the 2004 discovery of problems with lab tests for HIV and other diseases processed at Maryland General Hospital and Reference Pathology Services in Maryland.
According to the Sun, the problems -- which "involved the distribution of questionable test results, safety violations at the lab and general management turmoil" -- prompted critics to "question CAP's effectiveness in protecting the public health" because the group had inspected and accredited both labs at the time the problems occurred. The labs have since resolved the problems.
CAP said that changes to the inspection system will occur over the next two years and will include unannounced inspections, increased focus on interviews with lab managers and technicians and additional training for inspectors. In addition, CAP will establish an updated lab information system for inspectors and will post signs in all labs to encourage workers to report problems.
Bruce Williams, chair of the CAP commission on lab accreditation, said that a lack of information for potential whistleblowers represented a large problem in the Maryland General case, adding, "MGH was an alert for us. We recognized that something happened there that we didn't want to happen."
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who has introduced a bill in Congress to reform the system used to inspect medical labs, praised the CAP announcement, adding, "These acts, on the part of CAP, go a long way toward what we're trying to achieve in the legislation. This is something that affects every single American" (O'Brien, Baltimore Sun, 12/2).
The Los Angeles Times on Friday examined the "growing national problem" of medical lab errors and profiled a case at Magee-Women's Hospital. In addition, the Times examined the Maryland cases, as well as problems at labs in Minnesota and Washington state (Roche, Los Angeles Times, 12/2).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.