Dec 18, 2013
08:54 AM
The Connecticut Story

Connecticut Hospitals Missing Deadline Linked to Testing of Newborns' Blood

Connecticut Hospitals Missing Deadline Linked to Testing of Newborns' Blood

Most Connecticut hospitals aren’t consistently meeting the state required 48-hour deadline to get newborns’ blood samples to a laboratory for genetic testing, recently-released data shows.

In 2012 in Connecticut, the average time was three days, with 7.6 percent of samples taking five days or longer to reach the lab.

State law requires that newborns delivered in Connecticut be screened for several disorders, with the goal of providing prompt medical treatment when problems are found.

William Gerrish, spokesman for the state Department of Public Health, said Tuesday, “We agree that accurate and early testing is a critical part of the system to save babies’ lives, and feel that Connecticut hospitals’ overall reporting performance has room for improvement.”

A recent nationwide Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation found that “thousands of hospitals were sending babies’ blood samples late to state labs that test for rare yet deadly genetic disorders” across the country.

In Connecticut, blood is taken from newborns, and state law calls for specimens to be submitted for laboratory testing within 48 hours after collection. Specimens are tested at the Department of Public Health’s state laboratory.

According to Gerrish, after the Journal Sentinel’s project was published in November, the department reached out to the Connecticut Hospital Association to bring the newspaper’s coverage to its attention.

The department offered to collaborate with the association should they pursue a system-wide effort to improve Connecticut hospitals’ performance, Gerrish said.

The department recently assembled newborn screening data for each Connecticut hospital and is sharing the results with the hospitals, Gerrish said. The state provided the data to the Register Tuesday.

“We will ask them to report an action plan outlining each hospital’s steps toward achieving full compliance,” Gerrish said. “DPH will also soon begin submitting quarterly performance reports to each Connecticut birthing hospital.”

Only one hospital in the state, John Dempsey Hospital in Farmington, averaged 48 hours for getting collected specimens to the laboratory in 2012, state data shows.

Before newborns go home, hospital personnel prick the babies’ heels and take a few drops of blood for testing. The tests check for a range of disorders such as congenital adrenal hyperplasia, galactosemia and amino acid disorders, according to the state DPH.

When diagnosed, treatments ranging from hormone replacement to special diets and medication can help prevent severe illness or death, according to the department.

For the 2012 calendar year, 35,227 newborn blood specimens were taken statewide, and the average number of days between the collection and the specimen getting to a laboratory was three days. Of this, 2,685 specimens, or 7.6 percent, were received more than five days after collection, according to state data.

In comparison, 25 of 31 states for which data was available in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel project had lower percentages of late reports than Connecticut. Arizona was at the high end, with 16.65 percent at more than five days, while Rhode Island was at 0.58 percent.

See the full story at the New Haven Register online.


Connecticut Hospitals Missing Deadline Linked to Testing of Newborns' Blood

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