Hospital’s Closing Is a Lab Industry Opportunity

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NEWS OF THE ORDER by the New York State Department of Health (DOH) to close Peninsula Hospital Center in Rockaway for at least 30 days because of deficiencies in the hospital laboratory is slowly filtering throughout the clinical laboratory industry. (See article here.)

It was on February 23, 2012, when DOH issued an order for summary action against Peninsula Hospital and Guanghui Kong, M.D., Ph.D., who is shown on the 173-bed hospital’s website as “Director, Pathology” and is believed to be the hospital laboratory’s Medical Director of record. In the order, DOH wrote that the laboratory’s state permit was suspended for 30 days because deficiencies identified during DOH inspections on February 20 and 21 were of such nature that “the public health, safety and welfare is in imminent danger.”

This is a significant event. It is uncommon for any state or federal agency to take actions which effectively shut down all or part of a hospital’s clinical services due to deficiencies in the laboratory. Because these deficiencies in the lab were a major factor in the decision by the New York DOH to issue a 30- shutdown order, it is important for pathologists and laboratory administrators across the nation to get accurate information as to the circumstances that unfolded within this hospital laboratory.

In my view, this is an opportunity for leaders of the nation’s various laboratory associations and societies. To date, press coverage of laboratory deficiencies at Peninsula Hospital Center have not been balanced by interviews with informed experts in laboratory testing and clinical laboratory management. That means the public has been left on its own to assess what risks to patient health were involved in this particular case.

That is why I ask you, dear reader, this question: “Would it not benefit the profession of laboratory medicine if an independent review team comprised of pathologists and laboratory scientists looked into the public facts of the case and issued a public report on its findings?”

I argue that such an independent review would provide the lab industry with a highly useful assessment of the problems within the laboratory of a hospital that was known to be struggling financially. At the same time, it would provide an opportunity for the profession of laboratory medicine to provide the public with an opinion independent of the New York DOH about the deficiencies and their potential to negatively affect patient care and health outcomes.

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